‘Christmas Schooner’ musical by John Reeger of Riverside to mark shipwreck centennial
|John Reeger (Courtesy photo)|
Fans of playwright John Reeger of Riverside can catch a production of his “Christmas Schooner.” Reeger penned the show’s book, in collaboration with the late Julie Shannon, who wrote the music and lyrics of the family musical.
“The Christmas Schooner” returns to the Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport Ave., Chicago, from Nov. 23 through Dec. 30. It’s the heartwarming story of the first Christmas tree ship and the family who risked their lives to fill Chicago with the Christmas spirit. The production features a company of 25 actors and musicians, and commemorates the 100-year anniversary of the historic voyage of the Christmas Tree Ship.
The shipwreck of the Rouse Simmons, known as The Christmas Tree Ship, served as inspiration for the show. Her captain and crew risked the notoriously violent winter lake to bring Christmas trees from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to Chicago’s German immigrants. Each year, Captain Herman Schuenemann would sell trees right off the ship at the Clark Street Docks, and was known to give free trees to the needy.
On Nov. 23, 1912, the ship was swept up in a terrible storm. It was not until 59 years later that she was discovered, lying in 170 feet of water. Today the Rouse Simmons and her cargo of 5,500 well stacked trees remain preserved in the cold waters of Lake Michigan, and her legend has grown.
Last year, the Mercury Theater presented the musical with a full orchestra and an all-star cast, garnering a “Best Production” nomination for the 2012 Jeff Awards.
Returning cast members include Jeff Award winner Cory Goodrich of Carol Stream as Alma Stossel. Kelly Anne Clark, who portrays Enid, resides in Berwyn.
Performances begin at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays; 7:30 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturdays; and 1 p.m. Sundays. Tickets range from $29 to $59. For tickets and information, contact the Mercury Theater at (773) 325-1700 or www.mercurytheaterchicago.com.
To learn more about Reeger's play and his acting career, go to: www.mysuburbanlife.com/2012/02/27/actor-playwright-john-reeger-of-riverside-reflects-on-life-in-the-theater-currently-in-gypsy-at-drury-lane/zqyky4e/.
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