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M*A*S*H star William Christopher Brings " CHURCH BASEMENT LADIES" to Chicago

September 11, 2008 10:55:33 AM PDT
The hilarious new musical comedy CHURCH BASEMENT LADIES will make its Chicago premiere at The North Shore Center for Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd. in Skokie, previewing September 10, opening Thursday, September 11 at 7:30 p.m. and closing September 27. William Christopher, the Evanston native who played "Father Mulcahy" for 11 years on the show that many consider to be the best TV sitcom of all time, M*A*S*H, is coming home to headline the musical comedy that mixes the silliness of Nunsense with the homespun humor of Prairie Home Companion. Curt Wollan will direct. The show was a smash hit in Minneapolis, where it sold out for 130 straight weeks.

CHURCH BASEMENT LADIES is a celebration of the church basement kitchens everywhere and the wonderful, unsung women who work there. Set in 1964-65, the show is a funny, heartfelt reflection on the four women who tirelessly prepare the food and solve problems for the congregation at a rural Minnesota church. The "Church Basement Ladies" include the elderly matriarch of the kitchen, a young bride-to-be, a jack-of-all trades farm wife and the best cook in the church. Together, the ladies stave off potential disasters, share and debate recipes, instruct the young, and keep the Pastor on due course as they cope with the changing world. In the span of a year, they plan a record-breaking Christmas dinner, the funeral of a dear friend, a Hawaiian Easter Fundraiser, and a steaming hot July wedding feast. A down-to-earth glimpse at life from the kitchen--the heart and soul of the church--CHURCH BASEMENT LADIES features toe-tapping music and delicious humor.

CHURCH BASEMENT LADIES is based on the best-selling book Growing Up Lutheran by humorists Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Nelson. The show features a book by Jim Stowell and Jessica Zuehlke, with Music and Lyrics by Drew Jansen.

The production stars William Christopher as Pastor E. L. Gunderson, Margaret Curry as Mrs. Elroy Engelson (Karin), Stella Fasonello as Signe Engelson, Jean Liuzzi as Mrs. Lars Snustad (Vivian), and Karen Pappas as Mrs. Gilmer Gilmerson (Mavis.)

The artistic team is led by Director Curt Wollan and the show is Choreographed by Wendy Short Hays. Prop Design is by Gary Breitbach, Sound and Video Design is by Mark Brodin, Musical Direction is by Drew Jansen, Original Set Design is by Jerod Paul Grohs, Light and Scenic Design is by Scott R. Herbst, and Costume Design is by Beth Nistler,

The performance schedule for CHURCH BASEMENT LADIES is Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m. ($38.00 and $42.00) and 7:30 p.m. ($40.00 and $44.00), Thursdays at 2:00 p.m. ($38.00 and $42.00) and 7:30 p.m. ($40.00 and $44.00), Fridays at 8:00 p.m. ($43.00 and $48.00), Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. ($40.00 and $44.00) and 8:00 p.m. ($43.00 and $48.00), and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. ($42.00 and $46.00.) Group tickets are available by calling Group Theater Tix at (312) 423-6612 or visiting www.grouptheatertix.com. For tickets, call The North Shore Center for Performing Arts at (847) 673-6300 or visit www.northshorecenter.org . For more information on the show, visit www.cbl-chicago.com .

ABOUT WILLIAM CHRISTOPHER

Bill recently completed a run playing Pastor Gunderson in a highly successful production of Church Basement Ladies at the New Theatre in Kansas City. Clearly at home wearing clerical garb, he is, of course, best known for his characterization of Father Mulcahy, the gentle and lovable priest of TV's M*A*S*H. After eleven seasons in what is perhaps the most popular television series ever made, Bill continued to play Mulcahy for two more seasons in the sequel, AfterMASH. As he occasionally says, "I was a priest longer than some priests."

While growing up in the suburbs of Chicago, Bill had no expectations of ever becoming a priest. His grandmother did feel that the ministry would be a suitable profession; she liked to think of Bill as carrying on a family tradition begun when his great-great-grandfather, a circuit-riding preacher, founded the First Methodist Church of Chicago. Bill, however, from the time that he first realized that acting was a possible way to earn a living, set his sights in that direction.

He attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut as a theater major and soon after graduation made his professional debut in Tamworth, New Hampshire with The Barnstormers, New England's oldest summer theater. Proceeding to New York, he appeared in a number of Off-Broadway productions, most notably The Hostage at One Sheridan Square and then on Broadway in Beyond The Fringe.

The National Company of this British revue took him to Hollywood where he began his television career playing Pfc. Hummel on GOMER PYLE, U.S.M.C. Numerous television and film appearances followed, including the academy award-winning film THE FORTUNE COOKIE and such television shows as THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW, HOGAN'S HEROES, MURDER SHE WROTE, LOVE BOAT, and MAD ABOUT YOU.

1997 gave Bill the opportunity to reunite with his M*A*S*H colleague Jamie Farr in highly acclaimed production of The Odd Couple --naturally, Bill played Felix. Throughout his career Bill has returned to the theater both in Los Angeles and regionally. He has specialized in playing farce including, Run For Your Wife, Move Over Mrs. Markham, It Runs In The Family, Don't Dress For Dinner, Rumors,Lend Me A Tenor and Funny Money. He has appeared as Elwood P. Dowd in the charming 40s comedy Harvey and, on the more serious side, as Robert in Proof.

Bill and his wife Barbara have two sons, John and Ned, and a beautiful daughter-in-law Jennifer. They are authors of MIXED BLESSINGS, a book about raising Ned who has autism. Bill is a trustee the Devereux Foundation, a non-profit organization providing care to the developmentally and emotionally disabled. For many years Bill's principal diversions have been reading Homer in the original Greek, playing Scott Joplin rags on the piano, and restoring his 1911 Craftsman home in Pasadena, California. For the past two years those pleasures have taken a back seat to playing with and admiring his grandson, Tate William Christopher.


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