A strange array of costumed characters stood in a semi-circle in front of a packed Hill Auditorium last night. The costumes included University President Mary Sue Coleman, video game stars Mario and Luigi, actor Tom Cruise and a piece of pepperoni pizza.
The crowd cheered in appreciation of the participants in Mock Rock 2007, the annual Michigan athlete variety show featuring acts like lip-syncing, dancing and dressing in drag.
Mock Rock began as a fundraiser for a scholarship honoring the memory of Jeff Reese, a Wolverine wrestler who died in 1997. After three years, the Jeff Reese Scholarship Fund met its goal of $100,000. Since then, proceeds from the event have been donated to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
Among the celebrity judges were Michigan football players Shawn Crable, Terrance Taylor and Jake Long; Michigan football coach Lloyd Carr and his wife Laurie; and Dominique Duey, a former Mott patient who charmed the crowd with her consistent 10 ratings of acts.
Michigan alumni Jason and Randy Sklar, hosts of ESPN’s “Cheap Seats” who also guest starred as conjoined twins on ABC’s “Grey’s Anatomy,” emceed the event.
“Thank God we’re here in Ann Arbor, where it’s balmy,” they said during their opening monologue, referring to the single-digit weather that seemed to have little effect on the event’s attendance. “Wear sunscreen. Lather it down in the shape of a goose-down parka.”
The men’s swimming and diving team was the first to earn drawn-out cheers from the crowd. Their lip-sync tribute to New Kids on the Block was complete with sleeveless vests and ’90s boy-band moves. They followed it with a bathing suit-baring rendition of the Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men,” led by freshman Scott Spann as a portly female in a purple dress and black high tops.
“I’ve got those womanly moves,” Spann said with a laugh in an interview after the performance. “I was pumped because it’s always fun to dress up and act ridiculous in front of as many people as possible. It’s all for a good cause, so I just went out there and had fun.”
The men’s track and field team earned straight 10s from the judges for their rendition of Michael Jackson songs through the ages. So did the men’s soccer team for a remake of an Adam Sandler and Chris Farley SNL skit with a live band. Their parody, “Hoagies and Grinders,” chronicled the life of a red-haired, gout-stricken lunch lady. Soccer players dressed as a banana, snowpea and takeout container danced to their teammates’ music. Then freshman Cam Cameron, dressed as a sloppy joe, won the lunch lady’s heart and the crowd’s applause with his original dance moves.
“Some of the guys know I can dance, but I don’t usually do it at parties or out in the open,” Cameron said. “We tried to think of a crowd-pleaser for our skit. There are a lot of guys that have musical talent, and we always wanted to play something live and show off our talent.”
But the team that brought the crowd to its feet – and won first place in an audience poll that determined the winner of the three-way tie by the volume of their cheers – was the men’s crew team.
Performing to the Lion King’s “Circle of Life,” a Rafiki look-alike strutted out and belted the opening cry of the popular Disney movie and Broadway musical. Athletes pranced and crawled onto the stage, clad in jungle-inspired body paint and paper headdresses.
“If I had one word to describe that, it would be uplifting,” one of the emcees said after the performance.
The audience agreed, giving the crew team the only standing ovation of the night for their creativity, choreography and costumes.
“I don’t look like a giraffe regularly, so I had to make this thing last night,” yellow-and-black spotted freshman Eric Dryer said after the performance, pointing to his 2-foot-high, construction-paper giraffe head. “It was a blast. We didn’t think we had a chance to win. It was just surprising.”
But at the end of the show, the loudest round of applause when it came time to acknowledge the competition’s volunteers was not for Wolverine football stars or television-personality emcees – it was for Duey, whose presence at Mock Rock represented the purpose of the event and its powerful impact on the nearby children’s hospital.
“Everyone is a winner,” the emcees said in their closing speech. “But most of all, Dominique. She’s the biggest winner of all.”