Tag: Shawn Goudie

Review: It’s A Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! (American Blues Theater, 2016)

Brandon Dahlquist and John Mohrlein star in It's A Wonderful Life, American Blues Thtr           
      

It’s a Wonderful Life:
   Live in Chicago!

Based on film by Frank Capra
Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
thru Dec 31  |  tix: $19-$49  |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets   
     

December 19, 2016 | 0 Comments More

Review: It’s a Wonderful Life, Live in Chicago! (American Blues Theater, 2013)

Gwendolyn Whiteside and Kevin R. Kelly in American Blues Theater's "It's A Wonderful Life," directed by Marty Higginbotham. (photo credit: Johnny Knight)        
      
It’s a Wonderful Life:
             Live in Chicago!

Based on the film by Frank Capra  
Directed by Marty Higginbotham  
at Greenhouse Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln (map)
thru Dec 29  |  tickets: $19-$49   |  more info
       
Check for half-price tickets 
    
        
                   Read review
     

November 30, 2013 | 0 Comments More

REVIEW: It’s a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph! (American Blues Theater)

  
  

Feel-good theater with a sincere conscience

  
  

Its A Wonderful Life - American Blues Theater Chicago 01

  
American Blues Theater presents
   
It’s a Wonderful Life: Live at the Biograph!
   
Written by Philip Van Doren Stern
Directed by
Marty Higginbotham
at
Richard Christiansen Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln (map)
through Dec 31  |  tickets: $32-$40  |  more info

Reviewed by Lawrence Bommer

“There’s enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed.” That comment on the relativity of wealth is just one of many astonishing déjà vu moments in this old-Its A Wonderful Life - American Blues - Montage picturefashioned 1944 “live radio” broadcast of a soon-to-be-released Hollywood Christmas classic directed by the great Frank Capra. (That 1946 film, of course, went on to become, after Dickens’ parable and the Nativity, the most beloved Christmas story that America ever gave the world.)

Now it’s a worthy Chicago Christmas celebration in its own right. American Blues Theater gifts us with a pitch-perfect recreation of WABT’s Christmas Eve presentation of the story of one man’s salvation from suicide by a clumsy angel who wants to win his wings. This powerful blast from the past is performed in impeccably accurate 40s wigs and costumes by an unimprovable cast of Chicago pros at the collective peak of their careers. It’s feel-good theater with a conscience, not to mention a sing-along before and during the radio show and commercial jingles for local enterprises.

The story–about a bad bank (and slumlord/banker, Mr. Potter) that doesn’t “trust” or invest in its struggling community of Bedford Falls but is ready for a foreclosure whenever it needs a cash infusion–has never seemed so contemporary. An embattled savings and loan director, George Bailey (a bumptious and passionate Kevin R. Kelly) and his adoring and empowering Mary (Gwendolyn Whiteside) clearly make a difference in the world and for the folks around them–even, or especially, when times are hard. That’s when folks without health insurance or with heavy mortgages and bills need all the safety nets their neighbors can provide.

This difference that he makes, of course, George foolishly doubts and denies–until Clarence (incredibly deft John Mohrlein, who ranges from klutzy Clarence to vicious Mr. Kirby at the drop of a script page) shows him how Bedford Falls would have degenerated into Pottersville if George had never been born. The ripple effect, which means that no man is an island, has never been more gloriously depicted than in this reverse “Christmas Carol,” where Ebenezer/George discovers how his absence would be even more destructive to the world than his presence.

Its A Wonderful Life - American Blues Theater Chicago 008

All of this wonderful “Capra-corn” is presented in a seamless 90 minutes, with piano accompaniment by Austin Cook and ingenious Foley effects by Shawn J. Goudie. The nine-member ensemble deliver crowd noises, sound effects, songs and, above all, sincerity. The result is an authentic radio-days recreation that could pass for the real thing, but, even better, works perfectly as a play. It’s a wonderful show!

  
  
Rating: ★★★★
  
  

 

 

  
  
December 9, 2010 | 1 Comment More