AIDS Benefit with Mamma Mia Cast in Baltimore

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Those of you who poo-poo Mamma Mia as a piece of fluff requiring little talent haven't likely seen the national tour currently finishing its run at Baltimore's Hippodrome (through September 10).  And you definitely didn't attend the benefit last Wednesday night at Club Hippo.  Most of the cast, who just finished a performance of the hit show, arrived just before 11PM and provided the large, enthusiastic crowd (which also included cast members from the Broadway Company!!!) with over 2 more hours of top notch entertainment.  In the process, the company raised thousands of dollars (the exact figure is not yet available) for 3 terrific charities - Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS, AIDS Action Baltimore and the Sloan-Kettering Dana Farber Fund.


Organized by cast member and Charm/> City/>/> native Tiffani Barbour, the cabaret style show and auction got off to a fun start with host/performer Anne Tolpegin's hilarious and beautifully sung "The Alto's Lament".  A witty introduction of items up for auction between "acts" was given by auctioneer Lisa Mandel, who plays socialite Tanya ("Does Your Mother Know?") in Mamma Mia!  A wide variety of acts followed, including a very funny, smart monologue/tongue twister performed by Laura Ware who plays Rosie ("Take a Chance on Me"), several beautifully sung songs ranging from ensemble members Mackenzie Thomas' soaring "Astonishing" from Little Women to a heartfelt ballad dedicated to his children sung and played by Michael Gerhart/>/>/>/>/>/>, and a belty, lovely rendition of "I Will Always Love You" sung by "Sophie", Carrie Manolakos, to a jazzy version of the classic "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" by ensemble member Rosalie Vega.  Other acts that evening included Enrico Rodriguez and Marisa Martinez in two sizzling dance routines.  The stand out talent of the evening seemed to be cast favorite Will Reynolds who sang, played the piano and the ukulele!  His original composition "The Laundromat Lament", was delightfully brought to life by Julia Cook while he accompanied her on the piano.  Later, he joined Corey Greenan ("Sky") for a wonderful "backstage look" at the songs of Mamma Mia, all played on the ukulele, at lightning speed, in an oddball stream-of-consciousness way.  Hard to explain, but FUNNY!  The evening ended with a funny original piece from a play written by company member Marlene Handrahan and a touching, heartfelt "The Midnight Train to Georgia/>/>" lead by departing cast member Tiffani Barbour and joined by the company.  One suspects that the emotions which reverberated around the room were sincere - after several years with the company, Barbour plays her final performance in her hometown this Sunday evening.

While cast members rested, joined the crowd for drinks and conversation, Lisa Mandel led an auction of some terrific prizes.  Among them an autographed, actually used prop poster of Donna and the Dynamos, a Mamma Mia cast recording signed by Benny and Bjorn (as Mandel said, "the B's in ABBA"), original framed photography by several cast members, Hippodrome memorabilia, and an all-access pass for the winner and a guest to be backstage during the Saturday matinee performance.  The winner of that prize was a Hippodrome volunteer usher named Valerie Eigner, whose generous donation will let her have "the time of her life".  Look for an exclusive backstage peek at the Mamma Mia Tour when Ms. Eigner gives readers an exclusive report of her adventure.

Thank you, cast and crew and Club Hippo for a great night of entertainment and friendship all for 3 very worthy charities!  Miss this one?  Well, stay tuned for details for a similar benefit given by the cast of The 25th Annual/>/>/>/>/>/> Putnam County Spelling Bee

Mamma Mia continues at the Hippodrome through Sunday, September 10th.  Tickets are available for all weekend performances.  Don't miss it!

PHOTOS(Above):  Top: Anne Tolpegin (L) and Lisa Mandel (R); (Center) Will Reynolds (L) and Corey Greenan (R); (Below) Laura Ware; Carrie Manolakos; and Tiffani Barbour.  Photos courtesy of J. Singer.

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