Shows "C"

THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER Book by John Reeger. Music and lyrics by Julie Shannon. This critically acclaimed holiday treat tells the true story of a Michigan shipping captain who braves the deadly winter weather to bring Christmas trees to homesick German American families in turn-of-the-century Chicago. His voyages become a yearly tradition despite his wife's misgivings - until a fateful voyage makes her realise the true importance of his mission. With its powerful story and exquisite score, The Christmas Schooner is family entertainment at its best: hearty and wholesome. THE STORY: ACT ONE The stage is bare when the audience enters. Only a large decorated evergreen is visible. As the lights dim, a ship's bell is heard. The lights come up and the entire company talks directly to the audience. We learn that we are going to hear the story of the Stossel family, a German family, now living in America in a little lumber town, Manistique, on the north coast of Lake Michigan. It's also the story of a schooner they called the Molly Doone - and the story of a letter that changed their lives. The scene is then transformed to a bitterly cold Christmas Eve night, 1881. Gustav, the grandfather, enters carrying an armload of wood. He is met by his grandson, Karl, a boy of nine. In another room, Karl's mother, Alma, questions her son to see that he has done all of his assigned chores. Karl talks with his grandfather in German as they both decorate the tree. Alma quickly enters and reminds them that they shouldn't talk in German for they now live in America where everyone speaks English. Gustav jokes with her, reminding her that she's just jealous because she isn't German. She is Swiss, and Switzerland is full of a variety of languages. Gustav and Karl finally win out by realizing that America is the best of both worlds--the old and the new. The father, Peter, returns from work and shakes off the snow. Greeting her husband, Alma gives Peter a letter from his cousin, Martha, who lives in Chicago. Before he has a chance to read it, the rattling of cans, ringing of cowbells, and cracking of whips are heard. Four men ceremoniously enter shaking the bells and having a wonderfully joyous time as they run around the house driving away evil spirits as part of an old German tradition. These men are crewmen who work with Peter aboard his schooner, the Molly Doone. As soon as they are finished with their rituals, the men take off their coats and sit down for a glass of good schnapps. Gustav tells everyone the story of the first Christmas tree, the Tannenbaum, a famous German tradition. Alma enters with the goose and everyone sits down for a delicious Christmas dinner. There is a small evergreen branch at Peter's place setting which he picks up and proceeds to pass from person to person as everyone prays and remembers the Baby Jesus. As they all eat, Peter returns to the letter from Cousin Martha whom they visited last summer on their trip to Chicago. Yes, she enjoys her life in Chicago, but she misses the beautiful German Christmas traditions from her hometown of Bremen. Peter reflects on those days. Martha's letter finishes with her commenting how lucky Peter and his family are to have so many Christmas trees. In Chicago, the trees are few and far between, making the Christmas holiday seem incomplete. Peter then tells Alma that while on the Upper Ridge he noticed there were a variety of small pines that were simply getting too thick. If the trees aren't cut down and the area thinned, they'll choke each other and die. Wouldn't it be wonderful, if he could take those trees to all the Germans in Chicago who haven't had a tree since they left home? Alma thinks it is a crazy idea; however, she knows her husband and how he loves to help people. As they sing carols and finish decorating the tree, Peter can't stop thinking about Martha's letter and her wishes for a Christmas tree of her own. After the holiday season finishes, routine returns to the Stossel home. The men prepare for another