‘Mamed and on the Mend’-Sandy Bainum Takes a Fall, Has Surgery, and is Back as Mame at Riverside Center for the Performing Arts

Sandy Bainum (Mame Dennis). Photo courtesy of Riverside Center Dinner Theater.
Sandy Bainum (Mame Dennis). Photo courtesy of The Riverside Center for the Performing Arts.

From Sandy Bainum:

“It’s Today” is my first song, as Mame Dennis, in the Riverside Center for the Performing Arts (formerly known of the Riverside Dinner Theater) terrific production of Mame. It’s a song about living every moment to the fullest – and I could not agree with that philosophy more. With that in mind, I’m having a ball each and every performance of this wonderful, classic musical. And as an actor “of a certain age,” as they say, it’s not always easy to land great roles in musical theater, but Mame is certainly one of the greatest.

When I was first asked to audition for the show, I was excited by the fact that Sally Struthers would be in the production as Agnes Gooch! I remember watching her on All in the Family every Saturday night and always thought she was funny and amazingly talented. The idea that I could work with her was a big draw, as well as the opportunity to sink my teeth into an iconic role, one that I would actually be able to play for years to come.

Well, I got the role and I am here to tell you, Sally Struthers is an amazing human being. Not only is she brilliantly talented, and hysterically funny, she is one of the most thoughtful and kind people I have ever met. Sharing the stage with her is like attending a comedy class every single day! My biggest challenge is not to laugh and break character when we’re sharing a scene together.

L to R: Vera Charles (Kathy Halenda) and Mame Dennis (Sandy Bainum) question the seated Agnes Gooch (Sally Struthers). Photo by Suzanne Carr-Rossi.
L to R: Vera Charles (Kathy Halenda) and Mame Dennis (Sandy Bainum) question the seated Agnes Gooch (Sally Struthers). Photo by Suzanne Carr-Rossi.

We have a lovely cast and as often happens, that magical bond with fellow actors has formed. I am amazed at how hard all my fellow actors work. There are only two cast members of Actors Equity performers in this cast, Sally Struthers and me.  he rest of the cast are all hardworking and serious about their craft and many are Riverside regulars. In addition, since Riverside is a dinner theater, many of them wait on tables, donning their costumes just minutes before curtain, then rushing back to the audience during intermission to complete their serving responsibilities. They even clear their tables at the end of the show! It has me mesmerized and exhausted just watching them work!

I prepared hard for this role. I did my character analysis, read the play Auntie Mame, read Patrick Dennis’ book, watched the movie, Auntie Mame, and even watched the misguided movie version of the musical Mame. I studied my lines, worked on the music, and started rehearsal, but no matter how prepared I was, I was definitely not ready for a fall backstage the night before opening which shattered my wrist.

After having surgery, complete with metal plates and pins, I believe I willed myself into a quick recovery and returned to the stage after just a short break to start healing. I couldn’t wait to get back. After just three weeks back in the role, I am feeling good and my arm is getting stronger everyday.  It’s amazing that it doesn’t hurt too much while on stage, but boy, it hurts plenty on the drive home. That’s the beauty of acting. When you get up on that stage, your problems can virtually disappear for a few hours.

I especially love Wednesday and Sunday matinees. There are a lot of group sales and large crowds, and everyone has been incredibly kind and positive.  Thursday evenings are generally a little slower and quieter, and Fridays and Saturdays are bigger and more boisterous. We even offer a little holiday prize on your way out the door!

The big theme song
The big theme song “Mame” with (foreground) Kim Geipel, Luke Newsome, Stephanie Wood, Sandy Bainum, Bo Price, Kelsey Swann, (background) Josh King, Ian Lane, Andrea Kahane, and Carol Hagy. Photo by Suzanne Carr-Rossi.

The Riverside Center for the Performing Arts has recently undergone some important changes, including renovations to the space and the addition of a wonderful live orchestra. Under the leadership of Broadway veteran, Patrick A’Hearn, more exciting changes and improvements are still in the works. And though it is a bit of a drive to the theater, located in Fredericksburg, VA, down the I-95 S. corridor, please do not be deterred.

Mame (Sandy Bainum) sings 'It's Today' in 'Mame.' Photo by Carr
Mame (Sandy Bainum) sings ‘It’s Today’ in ‘Mame.’ Photo by Suzanne Carr-Rossi.

I’d love for you to check out this production. I think you will be very pleasantly surprised!  In fact, tickets to see Mame, in all her eccentric glory, would make a great holiday gift. So please don’t let this opportunity go by. Live life to the fullest! After all, “It’s Today!”


Julia Exline’s 5 star review of Mame on DCMetroTheaterArts.

Mame is named one of the Best Musicals of 2015 by the staff of DCMetroTheaterArts.

‘Mame’ with Sandy Bainum, Sally Struthers, and Kathy Halenda Opens on Sunday, November 15th at Riverside Center Dinner Theater.

Watch a video preview of Mame.


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