dara-cameronDARA CAMERON (Violet) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. She’s so happy to be back with her American Blues family for her fifth It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!. Other favorite credits include “Audrey” in Little Shop of Horrors (American Blues Theater); “Jovie” in Elf, October Sky, Sister Act, City of Angels, Hero, The Wizard of Oz, Cinderella, Fiddler on the Roof, and Little Women (Marriott Theatre); Old Jews Telling Jokes (Off-Broadway and at the Royal George); “Wednesday” in The Addams Family (Mercury Theatre); Sunset Boulevard, Seussical, Thoroughly Modern Millie, and Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story (Drury Lane). She is a proud member of Actors’ Equity and a graduate of Northwestern University. As always, she’s delighted to share the stage with her husband, Michael Mahler, and even more delighted that this year they get to share their favorite holiday tradition with their son-to-be, due to arrive in March.

ian-paul-custerIAN PAUL CUSTER (Harry) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater.  Recent American Blues credits: The Columnist (David Halberstam, Jeff Nomination for Best Production – Midsize), It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! (Jeff Nomination for Best Ensemble and Best Production – Midsize), Little Shop of Horrors (“Orin Skrivello”, Jeff Nomination for Best Production of a Musical – Midsize), and Yankee Tavern.  Recent Chicago theatrical credits: Bad Jews (Theatre Wit, North Shore Center, Royal George), 33 Variations (TimeLine Theatre, Jeff Award for Best Production – Midsize), Annie Bosh is Missing (Steppenwolf Theatre), High Holidays (Goodman Theatre), To Master the Art (Broadway Playhouse/TimeLine Theatre), Strangers, Babies (Steep Theatre), and Fiddler on the Roof (Paramount Theatre).  Regional theatrical credits: Hero: The Musical (Asolo Rep Theatre), Cymbeline (Notre Dame Shakespeare), Romeo and Juliet (Cardinal Stage), Peter Pan (360 Entertainment – London, England).  Television credits: APB, Empire, Chicago Fire, and Chicago PD.  Love to Shannon, my friends, and my family for all the support.

shawn-j-goudieSHAWN J. GOUDIE (Foley) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. He is excited to return for his 9th season of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!. It is a joy for him to share the magic of old time radio with so many wonderful folks year after year. He would like to thank his amazing wife, their endlessly curious children, and his loving parents.



james-josephJAMES JOSEPH (Uncle Billy) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. He returns for his eighth season of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!  Also at American Blues he appeared in Tobacco Road, performed voiceovers for Hank Williams: Lost Highway and American Myth, and has written for the Ripped festival.  He has performed on Chicago stages for twenty years, including at Steppenwolf Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Victory Gardens Theater, and TimeLine Theatre.  He is your audio guide for the permanent Chicago Authored exhibition at the Chicago History Museum, and was nominated for a Non-Equity Jeff Award (Supporting Actor) for his role in Faith Healer with UMA Productions.

ZACH KENNEY (George Bailey) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. He is thrilled to return as “George”, and to return to It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! for a third time. Previous work with American Blues also includes Waiting for Lefty, directed by Kimberly Senior. Chicago credits include: Hit the Wall (The Inconvenience); Hair (American Theater Company); The March (u/s, Steppenwolf Theatre); Chicago Boys (Goodman Theatre New Stages); The Gospel According to James (Victory Gardens Theater); and The Farnsworth Invention and Not Enough Air (TimeLine Theatre). Regional: The Great GatsbyRedMary’s Wedding (opposite Gwendolyn Whiteside), and Who Am I This Time? (Indiana Rep); A Little Night Music (u/s) and 1776 (A.C.T.); 1776 (Asolo Rep); and An Immaculate Misconception (Eureka Theatre Co.). Television/film: Chicago FireLifeSteps…, and Schizo Cool. A San Francisco native, Zach trained at A.C.T.’s Young Conservatory (originating the title role in Horton Foote’s The Actor in 2002) before attending The Theatre School at DePaul University. Zach resides in Los Angeles and thanks Alli, GTG, and this exceptional company.

MICHAEL MAHLER (Announcer/Pianist) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. He happily returns for a seventh season in Bedford Falls.  American Blues credits include Little Shop of Horrors, Side Man, and Hank Williams: Lost Highway. Other Chicagoland credits include: Honeymoon in Vegas, City of Angels, and The 25th Annual… Spelling Bee (Marriott Theatre); The March (Steppenwolf Theatre); Working (Broadway in Chicago); and The Fox on the Fairway, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Jeff nomination), and The Producers (Theatre at the Center). Michael is the Jeff award-winning composer/lyricist of Diary of a Wimpy Kid, October Sky, The Man who Murdered Sherlock Holmes, Wonderland: Alice’s Rock & Roll Adventure, and Hero. He also contributed additional lyrics to the new Broadway production of Miss Saigon. Up next, Michael will music direct and appear in Blues’ production of Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story. He is proud to share the stage with his wife, Dara Cameron, who is full of the joy of the season (and also a baby).

john-mohrleinJOHN MOHRLEIN (Clarence/Mr. Potter) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater.  16 years as “Clarence/Mr. Potter”, and he loves getting to revisit and reinvent these characters year after year.  At American Blues, he’s appeared in Half of Plenty, It’s a Wonderful Life, A View from the Bridge, Strictly Dishonorable, American Dead, The Hairy Ape, A Lie of the Mind, Endgame, American Buffalo, The Skin of Our Teeth, The Threepenny Opera, A Stone Carver (Jeff nomination for Best Actor, After Dark Award for Outstanding Performance), and directed Catch-22. Other credits: The Glass House at the Art Institute of Chicago; nine productions at Goodman Theatre; and Cripple of Inishmaan, Heart of a Dog, and Murder of Cardinal Tosca at Northlight Theatre. His extensive television and film work includes Golden Boy, Good Night Sweet WifeDillingerKilling FloorEarly EditionCrime Story (recurring role), UntouchablesDevil’s DominoesStranger Than FictionNo Place to be SomebodyHellcabHero, and Cold Justice.  Now he’s developing “Star Crossed Lovers”, “Pope Frank in Venice”, while continuing to install his art works.


CAMILLE ROBINSON (Mary Bailey, Dec. 20 – Jan. 6) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. She is thrilled to be returning to this lovely, timeless show! She owes everything to her family for she would be nothing without their love and support. Recent Chicago theater credits include: Lizzie (Firebrand Theatre), Big River (Theatre at the Center), Jesus Christ Superstar (Paramount Theatre), A Wonder in My Soul (Victory Gardens Theater), Wonderful Town (Goodman Theatre), and Little Shop of Horrors (American Blues Theater). Recent TV/Film credits include: Chicago Med and Chicago PD (NBC). Represented by Gray Talent Group.


GWENDOLYN WHITESIDE (Mary Bailey, Nov. 16 – Dec. 17) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater and has served as Artistic Director since 2010. Under her leadership, American Blues has nearly doubled the size of its Ensemble, added 29 Artistic Affiliates, and diversified its base of artists. She created the nationally-recognized annual Blue Ink Playwriting AwardBlueprint Development for new work, implemented community service into the company’s mission, and created the free arts education program The Lincoln Project for Chicago Public Schools which serves 3,000 students annually. She led American Blues through its 2009 rebirth and built the operational budget from zero to $1 million+ in seven years. Whiteside served numerous panels for the National Endowment for the Arts and sat on the national Board of Directors for Network of Ensemble Theaters. Currently she sits on the Board of Directors for The League of Chicago Theaters. She’s a graduate of Northwestern University (cum laude), The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA), and a Kellogg Executive Scholar in Nonprofit management (Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University). She was nominated for “Chicagoan of the Year” in Chicago Magazine and named in Newcity’s annual Players list numerous times. In seven years, eight American Blues’ productions won or were nominated for production by the Joseph Jefferson Award committee. She’s received 13 Joseph Jefferson Awards, Citations, and nominations as an actress and Artistic Director. Her favorite performances include Jeff Award for Solo Performance (Grounded) and 7 years as “Mary Bailey” (It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!). She’s the recipient of two (2) After Dark Awards and numerous Broadway World Chicago Awards and nominations. She directs the Joseph Jefferson Award nominated annual holiday production, It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!


GWENDOLYN WHITESIDE (Artistic Director / Director) See cast.

MICHAEL MAHLER (Music Director / Jingle Composer) See cast.

AUSTIN COOK (Score Composer) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater.  He is an award-winning music director, musician, actor and producer currently residing in Brooklyn, NY. He has recently joined the Los Angeles production of Hamilton as the Music Associate. Recent credits: Pre-Broadway World Premiere War Paint (Pianist), 1st/4th National Tour Million Dollar Quartet (Music Director/Music Supervisor), Sondheim on Sondheim (Music Director/Pianist – Jeff Award Music Direction), Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Pianist – Jeff Award Artistic Specialization), Putting It Together (Music Director/Pianist – Jeff Award Nominee), Some Enchanted Evening (Music Director/Pianist – Jeff Award Music Direction). Ring of Fire (Piano, Guitar, Dobro, Bass), and Hank Williams: Lost Highway (Hoss), Little Shop of Horrors (Music Director – Jeff Award Nominee). Chicago Theater credits include: Goodman Theatre, Writers Theatre, Mercury Theater, Theatre at the Center, Porchlight Music Theatre, American Blues Theater, American Theater Company, Second City. Music Producer credits: Billy Woodward, John Michael Presney, Yuleberry’s and Friends.  Austin’s most recently produced album “The Beast in Me” won the Independent Music Award for Best Roots EP and is featured on PBS nationally in Sun Studio Sessions.

GRANT SABIN (Scenic Design) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. A native of rural Illinois, Grant blends his rural roots with urban art. He’s a recipient of the 2015 Michael Maggio Emerging Designer Award. He’s a graduate of Columbia College with a BFA in theatre design where he was awarded the 2005 Michael Merritt student scholarship for collaboration in theatre design. He is known throughout Chicago for his keen eye in capturing atmospheric detail and his ability to design “impressively executed sets” on a storefront-theater budget. His designs have been seen at Northlight Theatre,  Victory Gardens Theater, Steppenwolf Theatre, Next Theatre, The Royal George, Overture Center WI,  Theatre Wit, Gallagher Bluedorn IA, American Blues Theater,  American Theater Company, Christina Isabelle Dance, The Seldoms Dance, and  A Red Orchid. He was nominated for a Joseph Jefferson Award for his design of American Blues’ production of Yankee Tavern, A Red Orchid’s production of The Sea Horse, and Dog & Pony’s production of Mr. Marmalade.  He was recently named one of the Top 50 Players in Chicago Theatre by Newcity Magazine. Grant is currently a part-time faculty member at Columbia College.

CHRISTOPHER J. NEVILLE (Costume Design) is a proud Ensemble member of American Blues Theater. He is elated to be back this holiday. Previous Blues costume designs include Hank Williams: Lost Highway (assistant), The Rainmaker, It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago, Looking Over The President’s Shoulder, and Dutchman/TRANSit. Christopher stitched and assistant designed at Victory Gardens Theater, Lookingglass Theatre Company, Chicago Opera Theater, Theatre at the Center, and Signal Ensemble Theatre. Along with balancing design work, Christopher teaches yoga across the Chicagoland area. He trained at Peninsula Players Theatre as a production intern and received his BFA in Theatre Design & Technology from Oakland University in Rochester, MI.

KATY PETERSON (Lighting Design) is thrilled to design lights for It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! with American Blues again. Past designs have been seen at the Chopin Theatre, the Athenaeum, The Building Stage, Prop Theatre, Viaduct, Stage Left, The Side Project, Profiles, Theatre at the Center (Indiana), The State Theatre, Lab Theatre (Texas), among others.  Favorite shows include nine years of It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago with American Blues Theater Ensemble; Nebraska with BOTC; and Playing With FireThe Glorious Ones, and I Am My Own Wife (Jeff nomination) with BoHo Theatre.  Katy spent seven seasons in Lighting/Production Design for The Oprah Winfrey Show, and now resides in on a farm in Ohio with her dogs and loving husband Ben, where she is pursuing a masters in Architecture at OSU.

ELYSE DOLAN (Assistant Director and Properties Design) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater where she is also the Assistant Producer. At Blues she has directed numerous short plays in past Ripped Festivals; assisted Jonathan Berry on Little Shop of Horrors; assisted Jess McLeod and Kimberly Senior on Blue Ink staged readings; and assisted Ed Blatchford on The Rainmaker. Her directing work has been seen across Chicago at The New Colony, Broken Nose Theatre, Prop Thtr, Babes with Blades, Pride Films & Plays, Gorilla Tango Theatre, Three Cat Productions, and more. She has served as Assistant Director on productions at The New Colony, Raven Theatre, Oracle Theatre, 16th Street Theater, and Redtwist Theatre. Elyse holds a B.A. in Theater and English Literature from Denison University.

KATHRYN LOCHERT (Stage Manager) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. She returns for her fourth season as stage manager for It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! and couldn’t be happier to reunite with her Blues family for another holiday season. Kathryn’s previous American Blues Theater credits include Ripped: The Living Newspaper Festival; The Wind and the Breeze (staged reading); The Rainmaker; Yankee Tavern; Hank Williams: Lost Highway (remount and original production); and American Myth. Other Chicago credits include The Happiest Song Plays Last; Teddy Ferrara; Charles’ Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (Goodman Theatre); and Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks: The Taming of the Shrew (Chicago Shakespeare Theater). Kathryn received her BFA in Stage Management from the University of Southern California. She is a proud member of AEA. She sends love to her hubby Christopher!

KEEGAN BRADAC (Sound Engineer) is excited to be returning to It’s a Wonderful Life for his second yearHe is a Chicago-based sound designer and engineer, with a B.A. from Columbia College in Audio Arts & Acoustics. Recent design credits include Bullets Over Broadway (NightBlue); All Shook Up (Casting Auction); and The Scottsboro Boys, Marry Me a Little, and Little Me (Porchlight Music Theatre). His Sound Engineer credits include Fun Home (Victory Gardens Theater); Little Fish (Kokandy Productions); Thrones! The Musical Parody (Apollo Theater); and In the Heights, Dreamgirls, Far From Heaven, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Applause, Chess, and The Rink (Porchlight Music Theatre).

SHAWN GOUDIE (Foley Design) See cast.

PAUL DEZIEL (Projection Associate) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater. He works on It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! each year. He freelances as a projection designer throughout Chicago, Washington D.C., and their respective communities. Selected credits include: Beauty’s Daughter (American Blues Theater); United Flight 232 (The House Theatre); Churchill and The Unfortunates (SoloChicago); Flying V Fights: The Secret of the Unknown World (Flying V Theatre); The Glass Menagerie (The Hypocrites); Merge and Kin Folk (The New Colony); Mike Mother and Redletter (The Neo-Futurists); The 39 Steps (Theatre at the Center); Mutt (Stage Left & Red Tape Theatre); and Twisted Melodies (Congo Square Theatre Company). Upcoming Projects: Sotto Voce (Theater J). Paul holds a B.A. in Theatre from Columbia College Chicago and is currently an MFA candidate for Projection Design at the University of Maryland. Outside of theatre, Paul enjoys tabletop gaming and reading “Calvin & Hobbes”. For more info on his designs, visit

MICHAEL TRUDEAU (Technical Director) is a proud Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater.  Michael is thrilled to be working with American Blues again this season.  Recent Chicago credits include technical director for Emergent Theatre, Sideshow Theatre Company, Route 66 Theatre, American Theater Company, and Livewire Theatre Company.  He has also served as master electrician for Shattered Globe Theatre, and Theatre at the Center as well as spot operator for Mary Poppins and Miss Saigon with Paramount Theatre in Aurora, IL. During the summer months, he is the Master Electrician at Peninsula Players Theater in Fish Creek, WI.

SAMANTHA R. DZIRKO (Production Manager) is a Chicago-based Production Manager who is excited to be working with American Blues Theater. Other Production Management credits include working with: The Hypocrites (Chicago, IL), Williamstown Theatre Festival (Massachusetts), and Actors Theatre of Louisville (Kentucky). Samantha graduated with a B.A. in Theatre from the University of Scranton (Pennsylvania).

RACHEL LAKE (Assistant Lighting Designer and Master Electrician) thrilled to be returning to American Blues Theater for It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! Recent Design works include: Yasmina’s Necklace (Goodman Theatre (Assistant Lighting Designer)); The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Eclectic Full Contact Theatre); Gideon’s Knot (Eclectic Full Contact Theatre); Lady X: The Musical (Hell in a Handbag); and Deep in the Heart of Tuna (New American Folk Theatre). Recent Master Electrician credits include: This Wonderful Life (American Blues Theater); The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (University of Illinois in Chicago); The Heavens Are Hung in Black (Shattered Globe Theatre); Beauty’s Daughter (American Blues Theater); and Cabaret (Theatre at the Center (Assistant Master Electrician)). She is a company member of Eclectic Full Contact Theatre, a staff member at The Edge Theater, and an alumnus of West Virginia University.

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