American Blues Theater announces plans for 2017-18 season

SHARE American Blues Theater announces plans for 2017-18 season

Michael Mahler will serve as music director of the American Blues Theatre production of “Buddy - The Buddy Holly Musical.” (Sun-Times archive)

American Blues Theater, the company led by Gwendoyn Whiteside that produces plays and musicals deep in the American grain, has announced its 2017-2018 season which will include everything from a world premiere play by Keith Huff and a Chicago premiere by Dael Orlandersmith, to a revival of that ever irresistible rock and roll musical, “Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story.”

“From the lyric beats of a poet, to the heartbeat of a family man, the patrol beat of a Chicago cop, and the inimitable beat of Buddy Holly & the Crickets, we’re thrilled with the rich and varied stories offered for our audiences,” said Whiteside in a prepared statement.

Here’s a closer look at the season, and it should be noted that all performances will now take place at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont.

The Chicago premiere of “Beauty’s Daughter” (Jul 7 – Aug. 5), Dael Orlandersmith Obie Award-winning play that depicts one woman’s journey through life’s obstacles in an East Harlem neighborhood, with Wandachristine taking on six different characters during the course of this solo play — some broken, some on the way down. It will be directed by Ron OJ Parson, whose superb production of “Blues for an Alabama Sky” just opened at Court Theatre.

The 16th anniversary production of “It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!” (Nov. 17 – Dec. 30), long a holiday favorite by the company — a live 1940s radio broadcast version of the Frank Capra film in which the town of Bedford Falls is summoned with Foley sound effects, an original score and holiday carols. Whiteside will direct.

“Six Corners” (Feb. 16 – March 25, 2018), a world premiere play by Keith Huff  (author of “A Steady Rain”), is set late one night as two burnt-out violent crimes unit detectives try to close the puzzling murder of a CTA employee. What should be a simple open-and-shut case evolves into a horrifying mystery and unearths a legacy of violence stretching back years. Gary Griffin will direct.

The Chicago revival of “Buddy – The Buddy Holly Story” (April 27 – May 26, 2018), the jukebox musical written by Alan Janes and directed by Lili-Anne Brown, with musical direction by Michael Mahler (“Little Shop of Horrors”). As they say, before the Beatles or the Rolling Stones ever played a note, rock & roll was forever changed by Buddy Holly, the bespectacled kid from Texas. The show follows Holly’s tragically short but spectacular career, and features such classic songs as “That’ll be the Day”, “Peggy Sue”,  The Big Bopper’s  “Chantilly Lace” and Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba.”

For tickets under The Blue Card plan, call (773) 654-3101 or visit

The company also will present ‘”Ripped Festival: Edition 16″ in the spring of 2018. Written and direction by various Chicago artists, this Living Newspaper project has been a staple since 2009, and is inspired by the 1930’s WPA era program that brought Orson Welles, Arthur Miller, Richard Wright and Clifford Odets to public attention as they drew on stories ripped from the day’s headlines to create live works on stage.

And this final note: For its arts education program in Chicago public schools, American Blues will present “The Lincoln Project,” conceived and adapted by Whiteside from James Still’s Pulitzer-nominated “The Heavens Are Hung in Black.” Aligned with Illinois Learning Standards to engage 5th-10th graders in the life of Abraham Lincoln, the piece will focus specifically on the events surrounding the Emancipation Proclamation.  Students will watch scenes performed by professional actors, participate in discussions and also write their own plays.

The Latest
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, there already have been at least 58 unintentional shootings by children in 2023.
Replacing lead water pipes and protecting the Lake Michigan shoreline are just two challenges the next mayor will face.
Trea Turner homered twice to give him a tournament-leading four, driving in four runs to lead the U.S. to a 14-2 rout Sunday night.
Alvin Bragg tells staff the office will not be deterred by threats as it decides whether to charge the ex-president with crimes over hush-money paid to Stormy Daniels.