It's show time, folks
Meridian native dances way to new job
TEACHER KNOWS BEST Mary Alpha Donnelly joins longtime student Robbie Thomas in a dance in the studio at Alpha School of Dance. Thomas, a Meridian native, is now the artistic director at Six Flags' new theme park in New Orleans. Photo by Paula Merritt/The Meridian Star
By Penny Randall / staff writer
May 25, 2003
Robbie Thomas was 11 years old when he first "got the bug."
He was sitting at Meridian Little Theatre one afternoon in 1979, bored and waiting impatiently for his younger sister to finish auditioning for "The Sound of Music."
Thomas' mother dragged him to the audition, and it was the last place he wanted to be. Minutes later, however, the show's choreographer spotted him and asked him to try out for a part in the musical.
After thinking about it overnight, Thomas returned to the theater the next day and gave it a try. While his sister, Tiffany, didn't win a part in the play, he did as one of the von Trapp children.
And since then, Thomas' life has never been the same. He turned his musical debut into a career that has taken him from Meridian to Las Vegas, to Tampa and around the world performing on cruise ships.
Thomas' career recently took a new twist. He now lives in New Orleans, where he is the artistic director at the new Six Flags New Orleans theme park. The park was formerly called Jazzland.
At Six Flags, he hires performers, and directs and choreographs the park's daily live shows not too far from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, where he studied musical theater and dance.
Thomas' first paying job was at age 19 at Libertyland Amusement Park in Memphis in 1988. After a summer there, he returned to Meridian to star as Peter Pan at Meridian Little Theatre.
The following summer, Thomas moved to Tampa for a job at the Busch Gardens theme park as a full-time dancer and singer
Thomas credits his parents, George and Glenda Thomas of Meridian, with encouraging him to follow his dream.
Now, years later, he still returns home often to help Mary Alpha Donnelly the dance instructor who persuaded him to audition at Meridian Little Theatre with her dance school's season-ending show.
Thomas has more plans for the future. Starting a production company is one of them and directing more plays is the other.
Thomas said he also will never forget Jimmy Pigford, the MLT director, and Donnelly, his longtime dance instructor.
Donnelly remembers the day she convinced Thomas that he needed to try out for a role in "The Sound of Music."
And she said she's glad he did.
Thomas said he has one piece of advice for anyone who wants to follow in his footsteps.