IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (American Blues Theatre): Heart-warming, Eye-misting, Soul-lifting

 IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (American Blues Theatre): Heart-warming, Eye-misting, Soul-lifting

American Blues Theater presents IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE:  LIVE IN CHICAGO!

My parents came in from Indiana to see what I had described as “a radio play version of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.’”  Following the show, my mom said my description was “a gross understatement.”  She believes there was more emotion in this radio play than in many full productions.  I don’t disagree with her theatrical critique.

The play is set in a 1940s radio station.  The actors are playing radio actors playing characters.  The story is about a desperate man who gets to see what life looks like if he hadn’t been born.   It’s a holiday classic.  Under the masterful direction of Marty Higginbotham, the ensemble (Ian Paul Custer, Shawn J. Goudie, James Joseph, Kevin R. Kelly, Denice Mahler, Michael Mahler, John Mohrlein, and Gwendolyn Whiteside) is superb.  All but Denice are returning cast members in this seasonal treat.

The show is part nostalgic as Kelly (George) and Mohrlein (Clarence/Potter) mimic the iconic voices of Jimmy Stewart and Henry Travers/Lionel Barrymore.  Their inflections are pitch perfect.  The entire cast change characters in a vocal whirlwind.  By adding an accent and subtracting decades, they become Italian or a kid.  It’s ongoing impressive feats of storytelling.  Despite the cast carrying scripts, this show is much more emotional than a radio play or public reading.  The end scene, where kindness triumphs adversity, is a heart-warming, eye-misting, soul-lifting sentimental sensation.

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE:  LIVE IN CHICAGO represents the best of humanity and holiday offerings.  Pick up your holiday spirit with a ticket.

My 2012 review 

My 2011 review

Running Time:  Ninety minutes with no intermission

At Greenhouse Theatre Complex, 2257 N. Lincoln

Based on the short story “The Greatest Gift” by Philip Van Doren Stern

From the Frank Capra movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Directed by Marty Higginbotham

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30pm

Sundays at 2:30pm and 5:30pm (expect 12/29)

December 1, 8, 15, 22 at 5:30pm

December 21st at 4:30pm

Thru December 29th

Buy Tickets at


Photo by Johnny Knight

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