TV veteran at helm for Sound of Music Studio's 'Into the Woods'

TV veteran at helm for Sound of Music Studio's 'Into the Woods'

CHAMPAIGN — In today's premiere of the 51 Main production of "Into The Woods," an actor and opera singer has a new role: director.

George Pendill is a veteran of the University of Illinois graduate opera program. But he's best-known for his TV work. Pendill is returning to his fourth season on CBS' "Madam Secretary," as the chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff.

As an undergrad at Illinois Wesleyan, he made his professional operatic debut during his junior year in the Beverly Sills/New York City Opera production of Massenet's "Manon."

After extensive theater work, he turned to TV and movies in 2011. Recent television work has included "Person of Interest," "Boardwalk Empire" and "A Walk Among The Tombstones."

How did he end up on Main Street for "Into The Woods"? He went to grad schol with Sound of Music Studio's Debra Myers.

The Stephen Sondheim classic runs this weekend at 51 Main, formerly the Accord.

It stars local theater legend Suzanne Aldridge as the witch, with music direction by Debra Myers.

The Sondheim/James Lapine collaboration tells the story of what might happen if all of your favorite childhood folk stories collided with each other.

You can see the energy of the actors of all ages — a huge cast — on the practice stage.

"It's more like the Broadway show, with a lot of roles for students and adults," Pendill said.

"So many magical things came together."

Originally, Pendilll was asked to play the wolf, but he hadn't directed in a while and decided to do that instead.

"I'm coming here to work on my chops," he said.

Clearly, he was enjoying the chaos of early rehearsals.

"Lots of enthusiasm. And we have a great space at 51 Main," Pendill said.

Next up: he's going back to New York and doing more auditioning.

His latest film coming out is "Windows on The World," now in post-production, about a son's search for his father, an undocumented worker at the World Trade Center's famous Windows on the World restaurant, after Sept. 11.

"It's very emotional," he said, adding he plays "a redneck" who's hostile to foreigners.

If you go

What: Sounds of Music Studio presents "Into the Woods"

Where: 51 Main, Champaign

When: 6:30 p.m. today and Friday; 1:30 p.m. Saturday; 1:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: Range from $6 to $15

Information: 217-693-7069