Based on the film by: Frank Capra
Directed by: Gwendolyn Whiteside*
Music directed: Michael Mahler*
Original score by:
Austin Cook*

George Bailey – the Everyman from small town Bedford Falls whose dreams of escape and adventure were stopped by family obligation and civic duty – has fallen onto desperate times. Only a miracle can save him from despair. Filled with original music and classic holiday carols, this warm tale “is the don’t-miss show this holiday season!” (Chicago Tribune)

For over 19 years, American Blues has treated audiences to a live retelling of the Frank Capra classic in a 1940s radio broadcast tradition, making It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! the second longest-running holiday play in Chicago!

*Ensemble Member or Artistic Affiliate of American Blues Theater


Nov 26 – Dec 31, 2021
Box Office: (773) 654-3103

Runs 90 minutes, no intermission.
Tickets range $25-$65
Recommended for ages 10+
Arrive 15 minutes early for interactive fun

Tickets will be available fall 2021.

Seen and heard on ABC, CBS, NBC, WGN, FOX, WXRT, WBEZ, WBBM, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Magazine, Newcity, Chicago Reader, Time Out Chicago, Windy City Times, and many more! Jeff Award and Dean Richards recommended

Chicago Tribune

American Blues Theater’s ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ is the don’t-miss show this lonely holiday season
Chris Jones | Nov 22, 2020

Of all the changes that the pandemic has brought to the Chicago theater, predominantly calamitous, it is the annual American Blues Theater production of “It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!,” as directed by Gwendolyn Whiteside, that is the most potent symbol of resilience.

Why? Well, for starters, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Even now. Vaccines are coming!

But the main thing here is that the entree is cooked live. Most theaters have rolled out some kind of tape or audio recording that’s already in the can, or filmed something without audiences. Fine as far as that goes. But they’re competing with everyone from Audible to Netflix to public radio.

American Blues, though, is performing the entire show live and in person via Zoom, every night. (Even though this show long has been set up as actors and a studio audience at a Golden Age radio taping, they did not take the easy audio way out.) Nothing is recorded, even for archival purposes.

Read the full review


Chicago Sun-Times

‘It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!’ delivers plenty of holiday cheer, virtually
Catey Sullivan | Nov 22, 2020

For its 2020 virtual pandemic season production, ABT bluntly begins the Zoom Age show (yes, it is a live Zoom show with cast members in those familiar onscreen rectangles) by stating that this year’s production is obviously challenged. For those who’ve seen the production on years past, there’s no hiding the lack of a meticulously re-created vintage sound-booth set. No vintage costumes. No milk, cookies and Santa in the lobby post-show.

Or as co-host Michael Mahler explained opening night: “We’re in the middle of a pandemic. We’re barely wearing pants.”

Despite the obstacles, director Gwendolyn Whiteside makes the show do its job. “It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!” is inarguably heart-warming and entertaining. The 80-minute production also makes a convincing case for the belief that good people wield real power. Finally, it is a piercing look at the forces that rob people of that belief. As for those rectangles: Most of the scenes are only one or two people: Maximize their size and the format is more movie than business meeting.

Read the full review


It IS a Wonderful “Wonderful Life!”
Ed Tracy | Nov 23, 2020

You don’t have to be a sentimentalist to be moved by the residents of Bedford Falls who come around every year about this time to teach us a lesson or two about kindness, compassion and commitment. Small town virtues and familiar faces have a way of putting you in a comfort zone, as American Blues Theatre’s stellar online radio show “It’s a Wonderful Life-Live in Chicago” proves again in just under 90 heartfelt minutes.  It was as clear that this warm, sincere Chicago holiday tradition–reimagined live via Zoom–still bursts with homespun charm.

Read the full review



Holiday Tradition Meets Zoom Theatre with ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ at American Blues
Sierra Carlson | Dec 4, 2020

I, like so many others around the world, am still coming to terms with the fact that I won’t see my family this holiday season. I won’t go home for the holidays, I won’t have anyone in my own home, and all those family traditions will have to be reimagined, if practiced at all. American Blues Theatre is reimagining some traditions of their own, adapting the second longest-running holiday play in Chicago for Zoom. It’s A Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! is a retelling of Frank Capra’s classic film about one man’s integral role in his community. This cheerful (and unapologetically digital) adaptation invites the audience to revel in the strangeness and find something to celebrate from their own little square.

Read the full review

See what audiences are saying about It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! :

“Wonderful production”

 “The actors were very talented and I loved how they engaged with their audience.”

 “Enaging, fast-paced… felt like a real radio show. Enjoyed seeing veteran players joined by new actors!”

 “This was fun and not your average Zoom experience!”


 “The telling of the story transcended Zoom.”

 “The actors were superb and this show always puts me in the Christmas mood!”

 “Absolutely delightful! Staging was very creative and you all were wonderful.”

It always brings a tear to my eye, no matter how many times I’ve seen it. You did a great job presenting it virtually this year.”

It was amazing to see how voices and dialogue could create the story which created so much emotion. It was a highlight for me, and one of the most delightful experiences during this pandemic.”

“This has become a tradition in our family and we love it every single time. Thanks to all the actors for making it feel like we were right there in the room with them and MAJOR KUDOS to the technical team for creating an absolute flawless Zoom experience (including the tips on Vimeo – really, really helpful!).”

“This year, for many, many has been less than wonderful, so your show is a much-needed lift. The entire cast and production crew did a superb job of presenting this great old holiday chestnut under highly constrained and constraining (ZOOM) conditions. Bravo!! Your creativity, enthusiasm, and professionalism in these dark days provided a ‘wonderful’ opportunity to pause and count our blessings.”

“I’ve attended the live performance and was excited about this one being able to watch from home. The experience didn’t lose a thing!!!”


Subscribe to our monthly newsletter for performance updates, special offers, information about our artists, and exclusive events!


Share This