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Entertainment & Lifestyle

E.J. Thomas Hall celebrates 40 years with musical party

10/24/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

E.J. Thomas Hall was dedicated in October 1973. Since then it’s hosted stars of stage and screen and world leaders.
Photo courtesy of E.J. Thomas Hall
DOWNTOWN AKRON — A musical party celebrating 40 years of bringing top performers to Akron is planned at E.J. Thomas Hall at The University of Akron (UA).

The Nov. 1 “40 and Fabulous!” event will see the return of Michael Cavanaugh to the stage with the Akron Symphony Orchestra for a night of music of the last 40 years.

“It’s a celebration of who we are and what we do,” said Executive Director Dan Dahl. “Michael Cavanaugh has been here before with ‘Movin’ Out,’ and he just blew everyone away. He’s a local boy also, and we’ll have the Akron Symphony playing. We thought that was a good combination, local talent with our own local symphony playing on the stage. How can you do better than that?”

Cavanaugh, a Cleveland native, was hand-picked by Billy Joel to perform in the Broadway musical that featured Joel’s music and choreography by Twyla Tharp. Dahl said Cavanaugh will perform the music of Joel in addition to songs by Bruce Springsteen, Elton John, The Who, James Taylor and more.

The event also will feature Sarah Kaufman playing Broadway tunes on piano before the 8 p.m. Cavanaugh performance and jazz music afterward.

“It’s going to be a lively evening with a lot of live performances, all regional talent,” Dahl said. “We hope people come and celebrate with us. There will be great music and great fun.”

After the concert, the audience is invited to enjoy a party in the lobbies featuring champagne toasts, desserts, live music and dancing.

The party comes close to 40 years to the day when the hall was dedicated in 1973. In that October dedication, UA President Emeritus Norman Auburn declared: “This majestic structure will serve as a cultural bridge, linking a thriving community and a great university.”

“Now, 40 years later, E.J. is a hub for arts and culture for our campus and community, the region’s flagship performance venue, a powerful economic asset for Downtown Akron, and a catalyst for collaboration among an array of artistic and cultural organizations,” Dahl said.

He added that the hall hosts about 260 events a year, most of them occurring in fall, winter and spring.

Looking back at the list of who’s appeared there shows that the venue has attracted top talent, as well as movers and shakers in a variety of fields, Dahl said.

“It’s been a who’s who, it really has,” he said. “Between what we’ve brought through and Tuesday Musical and others, we’ve had stars of the stage and screen and world leaders.”

He added performers like Red Skelton, Marcel Marceau, Charlton Heston and Beverly Sills drew large crowds, but Dahl’s personal favorite was a solo performance by cellist Yo-Yo Ma.

The Nov. 1 party is open to the public, and special invitations have been sent to local arts and performing organizations, Dahl said. The venue tried to keep ticket prices low so the event isn’t out of reach for the community, he added.

“We’re trying to make it as accessible as possible,” he said. “We want people to be able to afford to come.”

Tickets are $36.50 to $56.50 and are available from the Thomas Hall Ticket Office at 330-972-7570. E.J. Thomas Hall is at 198 Hill St. For more information, go to www.uaevents.com.

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