PICKSINSIX Review: It’s A Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!
Meet: Clarence Odbody, AS2 (Angel Second Class)
What’s it about... a rollicking 1940s staged radio version of Frank Capra’s endearing film classic that is sure to put you in the holiday spirit, no matter how much like Mr. Potter you may be feeling.
Why You Should Go... 2017 marks the 16th year that American Blues Theater has produced It’s A Wonderful Life: Live on Stage, and the first in their new home at Stage 773’s Thrust Stage on Belmont. Directed by Wendy Whiteside, Bedford Falls comes alive in a delightful production with a free-spirited, seasoned cast, and live music and Foley sound effects, all framed in a classic live radio show. You can send an audiogram to someone special, sing a holiday favorite and, after the 90 minute show, enjoy cookies and milk served up by the cast. The entire theater is awash in the warm and colorful tidying’s of the season courtesy of Grant Sabin’s festive set design, lighting by Katy Peterson and costumes by Christopher J. Neville.
Old-Fashioned Storytelling... judging by an informal poll, about half of the audience on opening night had never seen a live radio broadcast, which emphasizes the characters and the story. There is a poignant moment that honors a veteran or service organization at every performance adding to the heartwarming, family-friendly experience.
A Chicago Holiday Tradition... while the Bailey Building and Loan, 320 Sycamore and Martini’s Bar only exist in our imagination, experiencing the performance of the brilliant John Mohrlein in the dual roles of Clarence and Mr. Potter - his 16th consecutive year - is a Chicago holiday tradition not to be missed. The superb cast includes Zach Kenney and Wendy Whiteside as George and Mary, with Dara Cameron, Ian Paul Custer, James Joseph and Michael Mahler in supporting roles. Shawn J. Goudie creates a wide array of Foley sound effects.
The Background... in keeping with their mission to explore the American identity through the plays it produces and communities it serves, American Blues Theater has published and made available on their website, a smart, thorough Backstage Guide that provides over two dozen pages of background, interviews, historical facts and the text of Philip Van Doreen Stern’s The Greatest Gift, the story on which the film is based. BACKSTAGE GUIDE
Good News and More Good News... in addition to directing, Wendy Whiteside returns to the role of Mary Bailey for a 7th time this year through December 17th when Camille Robinson steps back into the role to complete the run through January 6th. Husband and wife, Mike Maher and Dara Cameron, return for their 5th season together, and Maher’s 7th overall, with a surprise of their own. They will be parents to a little Bailey in March 2018. Hot Dog!
Listen to our 2016 PODCAST featuring a conversation with Wendy Whiteside, Foley Artist Shawn J. Goudie and audio clips from the 2016 production. Lots of fun. Check it out.
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: LIVE IN CHICAGO
AMERICAN BLUES THEATER
through January 6th, 2018