It’s tradition that every December Mike and I go on a special Christmas date. Over the last fourteen years we’ve been to the CSO, the Goodman, and the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. We’ve eaten at amazing restaurants, seen incredibly creative shows, and absolutely cherished the holiday memories we’ve made together.
This year we were privileged to add It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! to our Christmas date list (it actually exists), which will go down as one of my personal favorites. While Mike and I received complimentary tickets to attend the performance, all thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.
True confession. I’ve never actually watched the movie It’s a Wonderful Life all the way through. Three hours of black and white television is a lot to commit to – but I have watched enough over the years to know that I undoubtedly would enjoy a 90 minute stage adaptation.
It was the perfect way for us to start the holidays.
Based on the film by Frank Capra (who based the film on Philip Van Doren Stern’s story “The Greatest Gift”), It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! transports show-goers to the 1940’s home of WABT studios where radio actors are minutes away from performing a live radio broadcast of It’s a Wonderful Life.
Note: They don’t actually broadcast the show live on Chicago radio, but their exceptionally convincing performance had me thinking otherwise for a while :).
Prior to the show’s broadcast, the “live studio audience” sang Christmas carols along with the cast and played a round of holiday trivia. Come show time, actual audience audio grams (thanks Michael!) and commercial jingles for show sponsors (think ComEd, area restaurants, and the zoo) were sprinkled throughout the radio adaptation. If these touches weren’t charming enough, at the conclusion of the show cast members mingled among the audience sharing homemade cookies and milk.
The show itself was mesmerizing.
I hardly knew where to look. Between the incredible musical talent of Michael Mahler, foley sound effects of Shawn Goudie, and the exceptional voicing of every character of Capra’s film among the remaining six actors, It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! was absolutely breathtaking.
Here are a few of my favorite highlights from the show:
Shawn Goudie on the Foley
I’ve never seen a foley artist at work, but they work for their keep friends. I went back and forth through the entire show completely forgetting Shawn was there, and being unable to take my eyes off of all the sound creating he was doing on the side of the stage. Every sound effect for the entire show was his doing. Footsteps. Door slam. Slap in the face. Splash of water. Padding through the snow. All his doing. Fascinating and exceptional.
I get that honorable mentions are a necessity to highlight the donating sponsors of the show, but the ensemble did it so creatively it deserves special mention. Most shows I’ve been to have a byline for each sponsor in the program. For It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! each sponsor was honored with a jingle (or two) that also highlighted the talent of the cast (and I’m sure the creative expertise of Michael Mahler). These are the kinds of special touches that emphasize the passion this ensemble has for their work.
George Bailey & the Cast
I hate to only single Zach Kenney out because the entire cast was just so stinking amazing, but George Bailey really made the performance for Mike and I. Zach’s portrayal of George Bailey, and his incredible voice, were just absolutely superb. It was heartfelt, believable, and perfect in every way. I know this is his first year as George. I hope it’s the first of many.
James, John, Camille, Amanda, and Jarrod – we loved you too :). Bedford Falls would not have been the same without your incredible talent!
Many thanks to the entire cast and crew for such a beautiful holiday presentation!
It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! is playing at the Greenhouse Theater Center (2257 N. Lincoln Ave. Chicago | 773-404-7336) through December 27, 2015. Tickets range in price from $19-$49 per seat, but really, there’s not a bad seat in the house :). Take a look at American Blues Theater’s vimeo channel for exclusive video clips of the show!
Regular Run Showtimes:
- Thursdays and Fridays at 7:30PM
- Saturdays at 4:30 & 7:30PM
- Sundays at 2:30PM
Additional Holiday Performances:
- 12/20 @ 5:30PM
- 12/23 @ 2:30PM
- 12/27 @ 5:30PM