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Improvised Sondheim Project Set for Stage 773

Broadway master Stephen Sondheim may have succeeded in “finishing the hat,” as his indelible lyrics put it. But Chicago’s Improvised Sondheim Project is fully prepared to embellish that chapeau.

This fall, the Improvised Sondheim Project will be returning for the third time to Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont for an eight-week run (Oct. 3-Nov. 21). The theater ensemble performs completely improvised, spontaneous musicals in the style of composer-lyricist Sondheim.

Comprised of veteran performers (including Joey Bland, Jeff Bouthiette, Kate Cohen, Katie Dufresne, Erica Elam, Aaron Graham, Rebecca Hanson, Nicole C. Hastings, Sarah Hoffman, Amanda Murphy, and Tiffani Swalley), the ensemble, under the musical direction of Aaron Benham and Stephanie McCullough Vicek, is self-directed. But they’ve done their homework, spending the past two years rehearsing together and researching the work of Sondheim (creator of such shows as “Sweeney Todd,” “A Little Night Music,” “Company,” “Into the Woods” and “Sunday in the Park with George”) in order to be prepared “to create completely new, spontaneous and hilarious shows that sound and feel like those by Sondheim,” and feature original music, lyrics, dialogue, and “choreography.”

The Project, produced by Jeff Bouthiette and Aaron Graham, works with no scripts and no sheet music, and does no “pre-planning.” They simply take a suggestion from each evening’s audience, and with guidance from “the muse of Mr. Sondheim” they devise a brand new musical right before your eyes.

The Improvised Sondheim Project began in the spring of 2012 when a handful of faculty members from the Music Program at The Second City Training Center in Chicago came together to explore the challenge of improvising musicals in the specific style of Sondheim. The founding members were Jeff Bouthiette, Erica Elam, Aaron Graham, Amanda Murphy, and Matthew Van Colton. This will be the ensemble’s third run at Stage 773 after successful engagements in Dec. 2012 and May 2013, and a sold-out performance at the Chicago Improv Festival in April 2013.

The Project’s performances will be Thursday nights at 8 p.m. For tickets ($15), call (773) 327-5252 or visit stage773.com. For more information on The Improvised Sondheim Project, visit www.improvisedsondheim.com.