Mercury Theater Chicago & The Hypocrites Will Celebrate Sondheim's Birthday with Weeklong Celebration, 3/16-22

Mercury Theater Chicago & The Hypocrites Will Celebrate Sondheim's Birthday with Weeklong Celebration, 3/16-22Mercury Theater Chicago, 3745 N Southport Ave., will celebrate Stephen Sondheim's birthday at The Hypocrites' production INTO THE WOODS with a weeklong celebration beginning on Sunday, March 16 with a panel discussion following the 3 p.m. performance with Andra Velis Simon from Columbia College Chicago and Director Geoff Button, and a second panel discussion on Saturday, March 22 following the 2 p.m. performance with Kris Vire, Associate Editor at Time Out Chicago and Executive Director L. Walter Stearns. The matinee performance on March 22, Stephen Sondheim's actual birthday, will also feature a classic Sondheim sing-a-long immediately following the panel discussion with selections from Merrily We Roll Along, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George and Roadshow. A delicious birthday cake from gourmet Southport bakery Sensational Bites A Dessert Café will be served following the sing-a-long on March 22. Directed by Geoff Button* with Musical Direction by Matt Deitchman, INTO THE WOODS has been extended through Saturday, April 5.

Andra Velis Simon, who will participate in the panel discussion on Sunday, March 16 following the 3 p.m. performance, is the Musical Director at Columbia College Chicago, overseeing all musical needs for the Theatre Department. As an Adjunct Faculty member, she also teaches several musical theatre performance courses. Andra was Music Director for the Columbia College Chicago productions of Violet, The Photographer, City on the Make, Rent, Floyd Collins, LaChiusa's Wild Party, Chicago, The Pirates of Penzance and Into the Woods. As a music director, vocal coach, arranger and accompanist, Andra has had the pleasure of working with over 50 arts organizations in and around Chicago, including Bailiwick, Boho, Chicago Children's Theatre, Chicago Opera Vanguard, City Lit, Defiant, Emerald City, Hell in a Handbag, The Hypocrites, Lifeline, Rivendell, Roosevelt University, Signal Ensemble, Stage Left, Strawdog, Victory Gardens, and many others. Most recently, Andra has provided arrangements and musical direction for The Hypocrites' new adaptations of Gilbert & Sullivan's Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado.

Director Geoff Button, who will also participate in the panel discussion on Sunday, March 16 following the 3 p.m. performance, is a longtime company member of The Hypocrites and directed their productions of Coriolanus, Desire Under the Elms and True West (Non-Equity Jeff Nominations - Best Play, Best Director). Around Chicago he's directed at Mary Arrchie (Harold Pinter's The Homecoming), Strawdog (State of the Union), Depaul University (I Am Bradley Manning by Sarah Gubbins), North Park University (Urinetown), and the Side Project (Sean Graney's Sugarward). Also an actor, he has performed in several Hypocrites' productions, including Woyzeck, Sophocles: Seven Sicknesses, Mud and Equus (Non-Equity Jeff - Best Actor). He studied directing in Northwestern University's MFA program, where he teaches in the music theater certificate program and directed The Who's Tommy and Spring Awakening.

Kris Vire, who will participate in the panel discussion on Saturday, March 22 following the 2 p.m. performance, is the Associate Editor at Time Out Chicago covering theater, comedy and LGBT. Kris manages coverage of Chicago's massive theater scene, has profiled numerous playwrights, actors, director and designers, and has written hundreds of performance reviews. He also regularly appeared on ABC-7 Chicago's 11am newscast as an expert segment guest on "What's Playing in Chicago Theater." His work has also appeared in American Theatre Magazine, The Guardian and GapersBlock.com.

L. Walter Stearns, who will also participate in the panel discussion on Saturday, March 22 following the 2 p.m. performance, is the Executive Director of Mercury Theater Chicago. As the former artistic director of Porchlight Music Theatre, Walter has produced more than 50 musicals and nurtured the creative talents of hundreds of artists. Walter has received the Jeff Award, After-Dark Awards, the first Guy Adkins award for his contributions to the art of musical theatre and the Franny Award as a distinguished alumnus of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

With music and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and the book by James Lapine, The Hypocrites bring their heightened and playful sense of theatricality to the beloved musical INTO THE WOODS. Winner of three Tony Awards including Best Score, Best Book and Best Actress in a Musical, INTO THE WOODS, opened in 1987 on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theatre where it ran for two record-breaking years. It also won the 1988 New York Drama Critics' Circle Award and the Drama Desk Award for Best Musical, and the original cast recording won a Grammy Award.

INTO THE WOODS stars Sarah Bockel (Cinderella/Rapunzel), Michael Brown (Rapunzel's Prince/Cinderella's Father), Hannah Dawe (Red/Stepsister), Joel Ewing (Baker), Allison Hendrix (Baker's Wife), Hillary Marren (Witch/Granny), Aubrey McGrath (Jack/Steward), Laura McClain (Jack's Mother/Cinderella's Stepmother), Blake Montgomery (Narrator/Mysterious Man) and Will Skrip (Cinderella's Prince/Wolf).

The musical is brought to vivid life on stage with revolutionary staging, a set designed by William Boles, lighting design Heather Gilbert, costume design by Sally Dolembo, sound design by Joshua Horvath and choreographed by Katie Spelman.

INTO THE WOODS runs now through April 5, 2014. The performance schedule is: Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Individual tickets range from $22-$59, and are available online at www.MercuryTheaterChicago.com, over the phone at 773.325.1700, or in person at 3745 N. Southport Avenue, Chicago.

*=denotes The Hypocrites company member

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