Spotlight: Holiday fave 'It's a Wonderful Life' returns to American Blues Theater

  • Dara Cameron and Michael Mahler perform in American Blues Theater's 2019 production of "It's a Wonderful Life: Live From Chicago!" This year, the production will be streamed live online.

    Dara Cameron and Michael Mahler perform in American Blues Theater's 2019 production of "It's a Wonderful Life: Live From Chicago!" This year, the production will be streamed live online. Courtesy of Michael Brosilow

 
 
Posted11/13/2020 6:00 AM

'Wonderful Life' online

American Blues Theater won't let a global pandemic halt "It's a Wonderful Life: Live From Chicago!," the company's beloved, 1940s-style, radio play adaptation of Frank Capra's film about an Everyman despairing over family and civic obligations who discovers the profound impact he has had on his community. Brandon Dahlquist plays George Bailey, Audrey Billings plays Mary Bailey and John Mohrlein plays the angel Clarence in ABT's 19th annual production. Artistic director Gwendolyn Whiteside directs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"We will be interactive, bringing our popular audiograms to audience members during every performance," said Whiteside in a prepared statement. "This year has been filled with so much uncertainty, but the one thing audiences can count on is the holiday tradition of 'It's a Wonderful Life.'"

Live interactive performances run at 7 p.m. Wednesday through Friday, 4 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday through Jan. 2. No 7 p.m. performances Nov. 26; Dec. 2, 9, 16 and 25; and Jan. 1. No 4 p.m. shows Nov. 14 and 21. $25-$55. (773) 654-3103 or americanbluestheater.com.

Tony Award winner Laura Benanti performs as part of a virtual concert series "Live From the West Side: Women of Broadway" to benefit Skokie's Northlight Theatre.
Tony Award winner Laura Benanti performs as part of a virtual concert series "Live From the West Side: Women of Broadway" to benefit Skokie's Northlight Theatre.
Benanti (virtual) concert

The virtual concert series "Live From the West Side: Women of Broadway" continues with a performance by Tony Award winner Laura Benanti, who has also earned acclaim for her Melania Trump impersonation on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert."

Skokie's Northlight Theatre is one of 20 nonprofit organizations participating in the virtual concert series, a co-production between Dallas Summer Musicals and the Entertainment Benefits Group.

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7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14. $30. Proceeds benefit Northlight Theatre. See northlight.org/events/women-of-broadway.

Our perspective

Our Perspective: Asian American Plays, an Asian American Pacific Islander theater series supported by The AA Arts Incubator Program of Asian Improv Arts Midwest (AIRMW), begins its season with "Fragmented." Written by producer/director Karissa Murrell Myers, the play is about a half-Asian young woman living up in Idaho who longs to be an actor and leaves her husband and family to do it.

Streams Monday, Nov. 16, through Thursday, Nov. 26. Free on Vimeo for 24 hours on Nov. 16. $15 beginning Tuesday, Nov. 17. See our-perspective.com or facebook.com/ourperspectivechicago.

In other news

• Performances continue for Lifeline Theatre's rerelease of its virtual production of "Pride and Prejudice," adapted by ensemble member Dorothy Milne from Jane Austen's well-loved comedy of manners. Performances run through Nov. 30. Suggested ticket price is $20. See lifelinetheatre.com.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

• Black Teen Lives Matter, a showcase of monologues written by students in Silk Road Rising's Empathic Playwriting Intensive Course (EPIC) program, will be streamed at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14, and 7 p.m. Monday, Nov. 16. Professional actors Brianna Buckley and Londen Shannon perform the monologues, which will be followed by talkbacks with the creators. (312) 857-1234, ext. 201, or silkroadrising.org.

• Edge of the Wood, the resident theater at Edgebrook Community Church in Chicago, presents a free, virtual performance of "Good People," David Lindsay-Abaire's examination of class, opportunity and economic instability at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14. "Good People" is about a single, unemployed mom from South Boston with a special needs adult daughter who asks for a job from her high school boyfriend, a wealthy fertility specialist. Tickets are pay-what-you-can. See edgeofthewood.com.

• Collaboraction re-imagines its 19th Utopian Ball as a virtual gala fundraiser at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 14. Actor/playwright and ensemble member Sandra Delgado hosts the event, which includes screened excerpts from the Collaboraction show "Peacock," a dance party with a DJ, a silent auction and a virtual art gallery. Proceeds help fund Collaboraction's mission to "incite change and social justice in Chicago through theater and community engagement." Tickets range from $25 to $250. Tickets $125 and above come with a one-year membership to Collaboraction's streaming platform The Together Network and a "We Still Dream" T-shirt or tote. See collaboraction.org.

• PrideArts virtual fall season titled Reignite! continues with a production of "A Pair of Lunatics," adapted by director Zoe Lesser from the 1898 comedy by W.R. Walkes about He (Jayson Lee) and She (Kya Brickhouse), who meet at an asylum and mistake each other for inmates. The production will stream at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, and 7 p.m. Dec. 3. Admission is $15. See pridearts.org.

• First Folio Theatre's interview series, hosted by associate artistic director Melanie Keller, continues with an interview with award-winning composer and sound designer Christopher Kriz. Among Kriz's five Joseph Jefferson Awards for sound design are two he earned for First Folio's "Mary's Wedding" and "Turn of the Screw." Type in "First Folio interviews" on youtube.com to access the interview. Also available online are Keller's chats with artistic associates Diana Coates, Nick Sandys, Hayley Rice, Christian Gray, Heather Chrisler, Wendy Huber and Cassy Schillo.

Sabrina Odigie has been named the new associate artistic director of the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights.
Sabrina Odigie has been named the new associate artistic director of the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights.

• Metropolis Performing Arts Centre announced writer/director Sabrina Odigie, a Chicago native, has been named to the newly created position of associate artistic director. The new position reflects Metropolis' long-term efforts "to expand the scope of voices and perspectives" at the theater. "Theater is a living art form, constantly evolving and expanding, exploring far horizons," said executive artistic director Joe Keefe in a prepared statement. "Sabrina is an immensely talented artist who brings a trove of fresh directions to our theater. I look forward to creating great performing art with her."

• Goodman Theatre's award-winning resident director Chuck Smith was honored with the Lifetime Legacy Award for artistic excellence by the African American Arts Alliance. The alliance was established in 1997 to increase public awareness, interaction, communication and development of African American arts organizations and artists in Chicago. The organization expands upon the Chicago Black Theater Alliance formed in 1977. "This year, even though we are not able to gather in the same room, the celebration will go on. In this difficult year for so many people, we need to uplift each other as we celebrate Black achievement and come together to remember the importance of the arts and artists in the Chicago community," said AAAA chairwoman and Black Ensemble Theater Founder and CEO Jackie Taylor in a prepared statement.

• A Red Orchid Theatre ensemble member Travis Knight has been named associate artistic director and ensemble member Sadieh Rifai has been named artistic development coordinator. The changes follow the decision of associate artistic director Shade Murray to step away from that position to pursue opportunities outside of the theater and the decision of casting director Mierka Girten to step away her position to focus more exclusively on her own artistic pursuits. Both Murray and Girten will remain ensemble members.

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