Mario comes home to students' shrieks

Singer talks at Charles about his latest movie

December 06, 2006|By Rashod D. Ollison | Rashod D. Ollison,Sun Pop Music Critic

All he had to do was flash a cool half-smile and the room went ballistic. Baltimore R&B-pop crooner Mario made an appearance yesterday at the Charles Theatre, where 120 students from Thurgood Marshall High School were invited to an early screening of Freedom Writers.

The movie, in theaters next month, is based on the true story of a troubled California high school and a young English teacher (Hilary Swank) who inspires her students to write their often-violent life stories.

Mario -- who last year appeared in the Baltimore-based Step Up, his first flick -- plays Andre, a vocal student who's conflicted about his life in the streets.

In between shrieks and screams, the 20-year-old singer told the crowd at the Charles Theatre, "The movie is amazing. ... I must say that when I read the script, it hit close to home. These are real people, real situations."

Mario was introduced by Ravens tight-end Daniel Wilcox, who sponsors Homeroom Huddle, an educational program at Thurgood Marshall that encourages students to stay in school. Wilcox's group is concerned about the school's high drop-out rate.

Dressed in low-hanging jeans, a T-shirt and a black cap, the fresh-faced singing sensation could have easily been mistaken for one of the students in the theater.

"Hopefully, [the movie] will influence you to follow your dreams," he told the crowd.

Before Mario bolted, he smiled and waved. The screams continued long after the theater lights went down.

rashod.ollison@baltsun.com

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