Thru January 2, 2021
Wednesdays: 7:00pm (except December 2, 9 and 16)
Fridays: 7:00pm (except December 25 and January 1)
Saturdays: 4:00pm & 7:00pm
Additional performance on December 31 at 4:00pm
Read below a review of a prior year's performance---
The holiday season can be stressful. Many pull long hours at work only to be greeted by the night at 5 PM and the frigid Chicago temperatures that come along with the lingering darkness. We trudge home through snowy streets weighed down with the thought of upcoming bills, travel, gifts, open enrollment for healthcare, upcoming taxes, etc., and all of this can feel e x h a u s t i n g. However, if you’re like this writer, looking for a cure to these hefty holiday blues, look no further than the welcoming, red and green, fireside radio play It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! directed by Gwendolyn Whiteside. It feels like coming home to a loving family, a cup of hot cocoa, and a plush blanket of Christmas joy in which to wrap yourself.
As we enter the space, we’re greeted by smiley actors dressed in their seasonal Sunday best (Costume Design: Christopher J. Neville), and a room filled with all of the holiday merriment and decorations of a 1940s Christmas movie come to life. There are twinkling lights all around, Christmas trees betwixt mountains of neatly wrapped gifts, poinsettias lining the stage, and green velvet curtains hanging elegantly behind the set (Scenic Design: Grant Sabin). We hear the festive live music of the ensemble members singing Christmas carols accompanied by music director and ensemble member Michael Mahler. Immediately, we too, are captivated by the holiday spirit.
American Blues Theater Presents a Play within A Radio Play
This is no ordinary play, though; this second longest-running holiday play in Chicago (in its 18th annual production!) is a radio play set in the 1940s. Thus, we are transported back in time to a live broadcast of the radio play adaptation from Frank Capra’s classic It’s A Wonderful Life complete with 40s-era Chicago radio commercials, messages from viewers (audience members), and a variety-show-like beginning with musical performances and giveaways. The immensely energized ensemble of eight comprises the entire town of Bedford Falls, and creates live Foley sound effects (Sound Design: Keegan Bradac) right before our ears and eyes.
At the heart of the broadcast/play, however, is the story of George Bailey played by ever-charming Brandon Dahlquist. Nearly the textbook definition of a good person, George Bailey suddenly falls on hard times and wishes he had never been born. In an effort to convince George of the exceedingly full life he created for himself, his guardian angel, Clarence played by the exceptional vocal talent of John Mohrlein, grants his wish. As George begins to see the value of his life measured in the lives of those he’s touched, he begins to see just how wonderful his life really is.
Truly a delight for the whole family, It’s a Wonderful Life is recommended to anyone, and especially to those who are feeling heavy-hearted this holiday season. This radio play is sure to lift your spirits and may even inspire you to sing Christmas carols the whole way home.
About the Author:
Lauren Lynch is a Chicago-based theatremaker by night and education administrator by day. She has undergraduate degrees in Theatre and English from Austin Peay State University and an MFA in Arts Administration from Texas Tech University. When she's not at work or seeing/creating theatre, you can find her enthusiastically playing board games with friends or stealing cuddles from her dog, Harry Pupper.