Photo Flash: First Look at American Blues Theater's 2013 IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: LIVE IN CHICAGO!

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Producing Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside and American Blues Theater, Chicago's second oldest Equity ensemble, present the return of the critically-acclaimed It's a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!, directed by Marty Higginbotham, now at its new venue: the mainstage of the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave. now through December 29, 2013. BroadwayWorld has a first look at the cast in action below!

From the original director and ensemble that brought this holiday tradition to Chicago since 2002, the American Blues family takes you back to a 1940s radio broadcast of Frank Capra's holiday classic-It's a Wonderful Life (based on the short story "The Greatest Gift" by Philip Van Doren Stern) with live Foley sound effects, an original score and a critically-acclaimed cast of eight that bring the entire town of Bedford Falls to life. For the first time, this production will be at the Greenhouse Theater Center on a new set created especially for the mainstage. Critics called this production "perfect Christmas theater" and "first-class holiday fare."

From the moment you walk through the doors, you will be transported back to the "Golden Age of Radio" and experience the story of George Bailey like never before. In addition to the heart-warming story performed, the production includes 1940s-style commercials from actual local sponsors, holiday carols, telegrams from the audience read live on the stage, the "Soldier Spotlight," when American Blues Theater honors one serviceman or servicewoman and after the show, the entire audience is invited to join the cast and crew for milk and cookies.

Returning for this year's production are American Blues Theater Ensemble members Kevin R. Kelly (George Bailey),John Mohrlein (Mr. Potter/Clarence) Michael Mahler (pianist/announcer), and Gwendolyn Whiteside (Mary Bailey). Also returning this year are American Blues Theater Artistic Affiliates James Joseph (Uncle Billy) and Ian Paul Custer (Harry) with guest artists Shawn Goudie (Foley artist) and Denice Mahler (Violet).

The production crew includes American Blues Theatre Ensemble members Samantha Jones (costume design), Sarah Ross (props design), Jaclyn Holsey (stage manager), Sarah Burnham (production manager), Kelli Marino (dramaturg), Austin Cook (underscore composer) and guests Grant Sabin (set design), Katy Peterson (light design) and Bobby Richards (video).

Marty Higginbotham joined the Ensemble of American Blues Theater in 1991, appearing in Desire Under the Elms, Monsters, On the Waterfront, Tom and Jerry, The Homage that Follows, Stalag 17, Bus Stop, The Three Penny Opera, Working, The Trip to Bountiful, American Dead, and Oklahoma. His sound design / original score credits with ABT include Monsters, Monsters II, and Monsters III, Food from Trash, The Homage That Follows, The Million Bells of Ocean and A Lie of the Mind. Higginbotham has also worked on and off stage at The Old Globe, The Prince Music Theatre, The Goodman, Northlight, Oak Park Festival Theater, Circle Theatre and the Organic. He directed the original full production of It's a Wonderful: A Live Radio Play in 2004 and has continued to helm the production since 2008 with the American Blues Theater production at the Biograph and now the Greenhouse Theater Center. Higginbotham is also founder and president of The Stage Channel, a video Production Company serving the arts in Chicago and across the country since 2001. The Stage Channel, to date, has produced over 900 promotional videos for music, theater and dance. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

The performance schedule is Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Additional holiday performances are scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 30 at 4:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 1 at 5:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 8 and 15 at 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 21 at 4:30 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 22 at 5:30 p.m. Limited complimentary parking is available at the former Children's Memorial Hospital lot, 2316 N. Lincoln Ave. The running time is approximately 90 minutes. Tickets are $19-$49 and are on sale now through the box office 773.404.7336 or online at americanbluestheater.com.

Photo Credit: Johnny Knight

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Photo Flash: First Look at American Blues Theater's 2013 IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: LIVE IN CHICAGO!
Gwendolyn Whiteside and Kevin R. Kelly

Photo Flash: First Look at American Blues Theater's 2013 IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: LIVE IN CHICAGO!
The cast of It's A Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!

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