The Christmas Schooner – A Musical 2012



by John Reegermercury theater

Music & lyrics by Julie Shannon

Directed by L. Walter Stearns

Musical Director Rugene Dizon

Choreographer Brenda Didier

At the Mercury Theater, Chicago

The Christmas Schooner sails again right into our hearts

Now the annual production of The Christmas Schooner has found a home at the Mercury Theater under the artistic direction of L. Walter Stearns and Eugene Dizon. This wonderful show is musically rich with memorable songs, rich harmonies and a truthful  story of the brave sailors who sailed in the late 19th Century from Upper Michigan to Chicago from 1882 until 1912.

mercury theater

John Reeger and Julie Shannon have created a tuneful musical filled with heart, truth, and wholesomeness. Led by Karl Hamilton as Captain Stossel and Cory Goodrich as Alma Stossel, The Christmas Schooner is a family friendly sure to move you directly into your spirit. This is a “Must See” holiday show for everyone.

Based on the true story of the ‘Rouse Simmons,’ a Great Lakes Schooner that was dubbed as “The Christmas Schooner.” Its captain risked the treacherous winter winds on Lake Michigan to bring Christmas trees ( Tannenbaums) to German immigrants from Upper Michigan to Chicago in the 1880′s.

Schooner, the musical features a rich assortment of songs from haunting anthems such as “We All Have Songs” and “What is It About the Water” to the emotionally enchanting “The Blessing of the Branch” to a rousing polka to sea chanties “The Mummers Are Here” and ” Hardwater Sailors.”  Filled with terrific voice sung in fine harmonies, Stearn’s Schooner unfolds as a heartwarming tribute to the immigrant spirit of compassion, industriousness, and adventure that shaped the building of America.

Visionary schooner captain Peter Stossel ( strongly sung by Karl Hamilton), deeply affected by a letter from a relative in Chicago lamenting the lack of Tannenbaums decides to risk the foul November Lake Michigan weather to take a boat load of Christmas Trees to Chicago. He is motivated by profit and tradition but once he experiences the joy he spreads, he is moved to make the voyage an annual event.

His wife Alma (the golden voiced Cory Goodrich) worries about  the dangerous trips. His son Karl at age 9 admires his father and at age 15 joins him on the annual trek. Gustav Stossel ( Jim Sherman), the captain’s father both supports his son and exemplifies the German immigrant spirit. Both young Karl’s (Benjamin Parkhill-aged 9 and teenage Karl-Mark Kosten) depicted the vibrant spirited youth of their time.

The Christmas Schooner is wonder holiday family show filled with empathetic characters, a warm spirit, and a nice lesson of giving that is wrapped up in a ‘feel-good’ musical honoring the human spirit.  This sweet show sings marvelously, contains humor and lovable characters. The enhanced music soars to the beautiful singing that rings to the rafters.

Schooner demonstrates the spirit of togetherness, help and sacrifice that fuels the hearty Midwestern ethic then and today. The Mercury Theater’s production is a polished, tightly presented version of the Chicago traditional Holiday show. it works so well in the intimate jewel-box of a theatre on Southport Avenue. Make this show an annual treat for the whole family.

Highly Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: November 29, 2012

For more info check The Christmas Schooner page at

At the Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport Chicago, IL, call 773-325-1700,, tickets $29 – $59, Wednesdays at 2 & 7;30 pm, Thursdays & Fridays at 7:30 pm, Saturdays at 2 & 7:30 pm, Sundays at 1 pm, running time is 2 hours, 15 minutes with intermission, through December 30, 2012

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