It’s a Wonderful Life:
Live at the Biograph!
A bell-ringing, heart-tugging, eye-misting Christmas crowd pleaser!
|American Blues Theater presents|
|It’s a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph|
Review by Katy Walsh
This holiday show spells Christmas with a capital *C*… Carols, Cookies, Clarence!
American Blues Theater presents It’s a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph! It’s a 1940 radio broadcast of the holiday classic. Suicidal man sees how his life effected the entire town of Bedford Falls. Clarence, an angel second class, is helping George Bailey vanquish his self destructive way. This touching holiday tale goes audio-tastic with seven characters and one foley artist creating the familiar American classic. It’s a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph! is a bell-ringing, heart-tugging, eye-misting Christmas crowd pleaser.
The ABT production has become a holiday tradition for me. Director Marty Higginbotham expertly directs this show like the Golden Age of Radio. Scenic Designer Grant Sabin gives the stage the lush and elegant look of an old fashion radio station. Velvet drapes, shiny wooden frame, a foley booth, a piano and even an “On the Air” and “Applause” lit-up signs. Higginbotham keeps everyone on stage at all times. When not in the scene, the actor sits on a plush couch in the back. The ensemble, six of the seven are returning actors from 2011, perfectly morph into a variety of different parts. Kevin R. Kelly (George) anchors the show with a sincere and vulnerable depiction of a man torn between his ambitions and his honor. A charismatic Kelly engages the audience in his ongoing struggle. A standout is John Mohrlein (Potter/Clarence). A stern and evil Mohrlein channels Lionel Barrymore in the iconic role. Then Mohrlein flips to the other side of the spectrum as a sweet and daft Clarence. The entire ensemble performs to the Frank Capra level of success.
Although the show itself is a beautiful, well-crafted gift, ABT wraps their present in some pretty paper and shiny ribbons. Upon arrival, Michael Mahler and his real life wife Dara Cameron lead the audience in Christmas caroling. During commercial breaks, Mahler and Cameron sing clever jingles about the actual show sponsors, like Com-Ed and Zig Zag. During these breaks in the show, the audience is invited to submit audiograms aka holiday messages for the cast to read live. The interaction makes the holiday experience more personal. And the final bow on this one-size-fits-all holiday basket of goodies is cookies and milk in the lobby after the finale.
It’s a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph! is the gift to give yourself and loved ones this year. It’s a wonderful holiday memory to share.
It’s a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph continues through December 30th at Location, address (map), with performances Thursdays and Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 5pm and 8pm, Sundays at 2:30pm. Tickets are $19-$49, and are available by phone (773-871-3000) or online through their website (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at AmericanBluesTheater.com. (Running time: One hour and forty minutes with no intermission)
Photos by Johnny Knight
behind the scenes
Marty Higginbotham* (director, sound design), Grant Sabin (scenic), Katy Peterson (lighting), Samantha C. Jones* (costumes), Sarah E. Ross* (props), Bobby Richards (projections), Sarah Burnham* (production manager, tech director), Brian Claggett* (stage manager), Kelli Marino* (dramaturg), Johnny Knight (photos)