Reviewed by: Michael Wise
J Reeger and J Shannon's musical based upon true events, tells the story of a Schooner that traveled across Lake Michigan in the dead of winter, to bring Christmas trees to the German people of Chicago in the late 19th century. Being a treacherous journey it's story sings sweetly to heritage and tradition, carrying over into new worlds.
The play centers around one family, with a father determined to keep the holiday tradition of yeur alive as his own family grows in the "New World." K. Hamilton plays Peter, a loving family man who after receiving a letter, looks around at his happy home then to the tanenbaum, and the memories it carries. The cast is wonderfully assembled for-fronted by J Sherman as Gustav, who fits the character like a familiar glove and C Goodrich as Alma, who brings both the message and the charm of the play to it's full fruition. The entire ensemble work full force, although due to failing microphones and an occasionally overpowering band, in moment sink in an icy lake. Not a single member of this cast.
The story's real conflict is a slow build. The circumstances of the time and journey take it's time unfolding. It is a natural pace, given the plot that follows, however the composer's following of a classic musical structure leaves the first act long with little happening. The second act, much darker in comparison to the prior, shows the danger in the Schooner's voyage to the much larger degree, and brings understanding to the story.
The beauty of the "Christmas Schooner" sales at the Mercury, and is an excellent holiday tradition, that produces more magic then any haunted snowman.
"The Christmas Schooner" performs at the Mercury Theater at375 N Southport, Chicago; Nov 16th - Dec 31st Wed 3pm and 7:30pm, Thurs and Fri 7:30pm, Sat 3pm and 7:30pm, Sun 3pm; tickets range $30 - $49.50 and dinner packages ranging $15 - $25. for tickets call 773-325-1700 or www.mercurytheaterchicago.com.