American Blues Theater Presents IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE: LIVE AT THE BIOGRAPH!, 11/23-12/30

American Blues Theater (ABT), Chicago's second oldest Equity ensemble, continues its 2012-2013 season with a return engagement of the critically acclaimed It's a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph!, directed by Marty Higginbotham, at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., November. 23 – December 30.

Pink Previews, where tickets sales benefit the Lynn Sage Foundation for breast cancer research, are November 23 – 25. The press/opening night performance is Thursday, Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. Tickets are $19-$49 and go on sale October 2 at 12 p.m. through the box office (773) 871-3000 or online at

The performance schedule is Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 5 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. An additional holiday performance is scheduled for Wednesday, December 26 at 8 p.m. Valet parking is available for $12. For more information, visit

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. 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.

Returning for this year's production are American Blues Theater Ensemble members Kevin R. Kelly (George Bailey), John Mohrlein (Mr. Potter/Clarence) and Gwendolyn Whiteside (Mary Bailey). Also returning this year are ABT Artistic Affiliates Dara Cameron (Violet), James Joseph (Uncle Billy), Michael Mahler (Pianist/Announcer) and guest artist Shawn Goudie (Foley artist). Joining the cast for the first time will be Ian Paul Custer (Harry).

A benefit performance and post-show discussion for Misericordia is Wednesday November 28. Additionally, American Blues Theater honors one serviceman or servicewoman per performance with their "Soldier Spotlight." ABT is proud partners with Adler School of Professional Psychology, Anixter Center, Misericordia, St. Leo's Residential Housing for Veterans, USO, U.S. Dept. of Veteran Affairs.

Director 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 continued to helm the production up to 2008, moving with the ensemble in 2009 to the Biograph. 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.

ABT's multi-generational and inter-disciplined Ensemble & Artistic Affiliates comprise all aspects of theater, television, and film. As of 2012, the company and its Ensemble received over 120 Joseph Jefferson Awards celebrating excellence in Chicago theater, two Pulitzer Prize nominations, two Academy Awards and nominations, three Golden Globe Awards and nominations, 12 Emmy Awards and nominations, six Writers' Guild Awards, 19 Black Theatre Alliance Awards and nominations, 21 After Dark Awards, and multiple regional theater awards from New York, Los Angeles, Washington D.C., and Florida. ABT is the second-oldest Equity Ensemble theater in Chicago. The company's 36-member Ensemble has over 418 combined years of collaboration on stage.

Pictured: Gwendolyn Whiteside and Kevin R. Kelly. Photo by Johnny Knight.

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