The Christmas Schooner | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Christmas Schooner 

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The Christmas Schooner, Bailiwick Repertory. This latest remount of John Reeger and Julie Shannon's musical about sailors crossing Lake Michigan to deliver Christmas trees to Chicago in the late 19th century is a refreshing alternative to the traditional feel-good fare. Though it offers the usual carols, comic moments, and positive messages about family, tradition, and generosity, it also takes a darker, more dramatic turn.

Director Phil Gigante and choreographer Brenda Didier's staging can be dully familiar, some of the performers are too broadly expressive at first, and there are times when lyrics or dialogue are difficult to make out. But overall this remains an appealing work. Karl Sean Hamilton and Susan Miller bring powerful voices and resonant performances to the key roles of first captain Peter Stossel and his wife, and Robert Maher as Peter's father, Gustav, and Jason Bowen as the first mate also contribute richly developed characters. The rest of the ensemble are capable, and their voices blend together beautifully in the song "What Is It About the Water," one of the show's highlights. Also noteworthy is Eric Appleton's moody lighting, which enhances Richard and Jacqueline Penrod's detailed set.

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