American Blues Announces Partial Casting and 18/19 Season Lineup

American Blues Announces Partial Casting and 18/19 Season Lineup

Photo: The 2017 cast of IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Photo by Michael Brosilow. 

American Blues Theater has announced the lineup and partial casting for its 2018-2019 season titled “Home Sweet Home.”

The 33rd season features the Chicago premieres of ON CLOVER ROAD by Steven Dietz, directed by Halena Kays, THE ABSOLUTE BRIGHTNESS OF LEONARD PELKEY by James Lecesne, directed by Kurt Johns, FLYIN’ WEST by Pearl Cleage, directed by Chuck Smith, It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago! from Frank Capra’s film, directed by Gwendolyn Whiteside, and THE SPITFIRE GRILL – a musical with book, lyrics, and music by James Valeq and Fred Alley, music directed by Malcolm Ruhl. All performances will take place at Stage 773, located at 1225 W Belmont Ave, Chicago.

“Benjamin Franklin wrote ‘A home is not a home unless it contains food and fire for the mind as well as the body’,” notes Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside. “Our Season 33 productions provide fuel for both as we explore American identity through one’s home over a century. We’re honored to share these spectacular talents.”

The 2018-2019 American Blues Theater Season (from the press release):

by Pearl Cleage
directed by Artistic Affiliate Chuck Smith
October 5 – November 3, 2018

Following the end of the Civil War, many former slaves took advantage of The Homestead Act and went West to build new lives for themselves and their families. Many of these homesteaders were black women who overcame tremendous odds to work their own land and make a place for themselves in an often harsh and forbidding environment. Set in 1898, FLYIN’ WEST is the story of some of these African-American female pioneers who settled, together, in the all-black town of Nicodemus, Kansas.

“A gripping play…a paean to women…and a plea for all women with vibrant lives to tell their oral stories.” – The New York Times

17th Anniversary Production of
It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!
from Frank Capra’s film
directed by Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside
music direction by Ensemble member Michael Mahler
November 16, 2018 – January 5, 2019

As the second longest holiday play in Chicago, the American Blues Ensemble has treated Chicago audiences to a live 1940s radio broadcast of holiday favorite It’s a Wonderful Life for 17 years. The incredible cast recreates the entire town of Bedford Falls with Foley sound effects, an original score and holiday carols. The Bedford Falls “residents” extend their hospitality after every performance when audiences are treated to milk and cookies served by the cast.

The Chicago Premiere of
by Steven Dietz
directed by Halena Kays
February 1 – March 16, 2019

At an abandoned motel on a desolate American road, a mother meets with a cult deprogrammer, believing she will be reunited with her runaway daughter. Featuring Joseph Jefferson Award winners Gwendolyn Whiteside and Philip Earl Johnson. DC Metro Arts says this smart, harrowing, edge-of-your-seat thriller will “consume your attention for its full 90 minutes, and you’ll leave the theatre fully entertained.”

The Chicago Premiere of
by James Lecesne
directed by Kurt Johns
March 29 – April 27, 2019

Ensemble member Joe Foust portrays every character in a small Jersey Shore town as he unravels the story of Leonard Pelkey, a tenaciously optimistic and flamboyant fourteen-year-old boy who goes missing. A luminous force of nature whose magic is only truly felt once he is gone, Leonard becomes an unexpected inspiration as the town’s citizens question how they live, who they love, and what they leave behind. L.A. Times says it “shines with humanity”.

based on the film by Lee David Zlotoff
book by James Valeq & Fred Alley
lyrics by Fred Alley | music by James Valeq
music direction by Malcolm Ruhl
May 10 – June 29, 2019

A feisty parolee follows her dreams, based on a page from an old travel book, to a small town in Wisconsin and finds a place for herself working at Hannah’s Spitfire Grill. The New York Times calls THE SPITFIRE GRILL “a soul satisfying…work of theatrical resourcefulness” and The Wall Street Journal heralds its “soaring melodies”.

For more information on American Blues Theater visit

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