CHICAGO—Producing Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside and American Blues Theater, Chicago’s second oldest Equity ensemble, are proud to announce the return of the critically acclaimed It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!, on the main stage of the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., November 20 – December 27. “Pink Previews,” where tickets sales benefit the Lynn Sage Foundation for breast cancer research, play November 20 – November 22 following the regular schedule. The press/opening night performance is Wednesday, Nov. 25 at 7:30p.m. 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. The performance schedule is Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. with additional holiday performances to be announced. For more information visit www.AmericanBluesTheater.com.
From the original 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. This production that has been called “perfect Christmas theater” and “first-class holiday fare” returns to the Greenhouse Theater Center this season.
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 per performance; and after the show, the entire audience is invited to join the cast and crew for milk and cookies.
The 2015 production includes a new George and Mary Bailey, Artistic Affiliate Zach Kenney and Amanda Tanguay. Gwendolyn Whiteside, who played Mary Bailey for six years, updates the pre-show entertainment and the production and directs Kenney and Tanguay in the tradition of American Blues’ award-winning ensemble acting. The performance also includes musical additions by Music Director Michael Mahler and Austin Cook’s original score for the production.
Returning are American Blues Theater Ensemble Members John Mohrlein (Mr. Potter/Clarence) and Michael Mahler(pianist/announcer). Also returning this year are American Blues Theater Artistic Affiliates James Joseph (Uncle Billy), Ian Paul Custer (Harry) and Shawn Goudie (Foley artist) with guest artist Denice Mahler (Violet).
The production crew includes American Blues Theater artists Marty Higginbotham (original direction); Gwendolyn Whiteside (direction); Michael Mahler (music direction); Samantha Jones (co-costume design), Christopher Neville (co-costume design), Austin Cook (underscore composer), Grant Sabin (scenic design), Kathryn Lochert (stage manager), Arianna Soloway (props), Paul Deziel (video) and guest artist Katy Peterson (lighting design).
COMMUNITY SERVICE FOR It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!
American Blues Theater is proud to continue “Pink Previews” for this production. Proceeds from preview performances are donated to the Lynn Sage Foundation for breast cancer research. They also partner with Misericordia, USO and U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.
Select performances also include special events: Sunday, Dec. 13 at 2:30 p.m., American Blues Theater and It’s a Wonderful Life celebrates Hanukkah, with all children 12 years old and younger in attendance receiving a commemorative keepsake. And Sunday, Dec. 20, following the 2:30 p.m. performance, Santa Claus swings by to meet with guests and distribute keepsakes to all children 12 years old and younger.
ABOUT AMERICAN BLUES THEATER
American Blues Theater is the premier American theater producing visceral theatrical works while engaging its audience in missions of local service agencies. American Blues Theater illuminates the American ideas of freedom, equality, and opportunity in the plays produced and communities served.
The multi-generational and interdisciplined artists have established the second-oldest professional Equity Ensemble theater in Chicago. The 39-member Ensemble has 539 combined years of collaboration on stage. As of 2015, they’ve individually received nearly 150 Joseph Jefferson Awards and nominations that celebrate excellence in Chicago theater including the 2014 Jeff Awards for Production-Musical-Midsize, Hank Williams: Lost Highway; Actor in a Principal Role – Musical, Matthew Brumlow, Hank Williams: Lost Highway; Solo Performance, Gwendolyn Whiteside, Grounded; Music Direction, Malcolm Ruhl, Hank Williams: Lost Highway and Sound Design, Lindsay Jones, Grounded and over 22 Black Theatre Alliance Awards. The artists are honored with Pulitzer Prize nominations, Academy Awards, Golden Globe Awards, Emmy Awards and numerous other accolades.
Photo credit: Jaclyn Holsey. (L to R) Amanda Tanguay and Zach Kenney as “Mary and George Bailey”.