COEUR D’ ALENE — Hannah Verdi spent her Friday and Saturday nights singing karaoke at a Los Angeles fish market. She was known as the Adele girl — singing “Rolling in the Deep” and “Set Fire to the Rain” — making $150 a night for nearly two years.
“It was a crazy environment and it stunk like fish,” said the Coeur d’Alene High School junior. “It was something I grew up with.”
Hannah has focused her life on becoming a Broadway performer. She auditioned for “America’s Got Talent” show, won a Radio Disney talent show, performed in community and school theater and practiced vocal techniques in school choir classes and from YouTube videos.
She hopes all the work will lead to acceptance to Juilliard, a prestigious school which has produced famed entertainers such as Kevin Spacey, Robin Williams and Barry Manilow. Hannah also dreams of landing a role in a New York City Broadway show.
“Every time I perform I think of Broadway and how I can be the best,” Hannah said. “Theatre is such a beautiful thing. It can capture you and leave you in an instant, but is always remembered in the back of your mind.”
Walking, talking and singing
Just after learning to talk, Hannah would sing The Cheetah Girls in the car while dancing in her car seat.
“I would tell her to sing louder,” said Katrina Wilson, Hannah’s mom. “Whether she had talent at the time, no. Hannah was just a kid singing in the backseat.”
At the age of 7, Katrina knew her daughter had talent after singing Shakira’s song “My hips don’t lie.”
“I couldn’t believe it, She sounded just like Shakira,” Katrina said.
Hannah rarely stopped singing when she left the house. During her elementary days, she would hum in class.
“During parent-teacher conferences I would always get the complaint that Hannah would hum songs while working,” Katrina said.
Hannah went to her mom at age 9 and told her she wanted to sing. Katrina took her to a Los Angeles karaoke club where Hannah fell in love with performing on stage.
“I love putting smiles on peoples’ faces,” Hannah said. “It gives me a way to express my humor, feelings and emotions.”
Performing karaoke led to a Radio Disney talent show. She sang the Miley Cyrus song “Party in the U.S.A.” and won Disneyland tickets. That performance motivated Hannah to audition for “America’s Got Talent”.
“This was the first time I really started to put myself out there,” Hannah said. “I would love to try out for “The Voice” one day, but I know that my heart belongs on stage.”
Passion to perform
Katrina and Hannah moved to Coeur d’Alene in 2012 from Los Angeles. Hannah was introduced to drama her freshman year of high school, which sparked an interest in acting. She landed a spot on the competitive drama team — and competes in categories of humorous, serious or musical ensemble against other students. She is top on the team as a junior.
“Hannah is a young lady who as a compassion for humanity that enlightens her ability to create characters on stage,” said Jared Helm, the theatre director at Coeur d’Alene High School. “She connects with herself in such a way that the audience can’t help but want to hear the story.”
Hannah performs in community theaters and school plays, sings the national anthem at events and is starring in a friend’s short film about three pizza delivery people recruited by the government to save the world. She has held lead roles in a variety of plays — Cinderella, Peter Pan, Catch Me If You Can, Wizard of Oz and Where Is Charlie?
“I can’t afford to take professional classes, all my acting and singing is taught in school,” Hannah said.
The New York dream
Hannah wants to study musical theater in college and she’s building her resume to get into her dream school, Juilliard.
“People who go to New York go to find their dreams,” Hannah said. “I’m going to be one of those people.”
She is hoping for a scholarship, but is saving to pay for tuition. On the weekends she works at a Coeur d’Alene hotel making $9.25 an hour as a housekeeper and she books local singing gigs for extra cash.
“Everything I’m doing is to see how far I can go and how much I can achieve,” Hannah said. “Financially, I will figure it out.”