The Christmas Schooner, Bailiwick Repertory.
John Reeger and Julie Shannon’s two-act musical is just the sort of heavy, sweet thing people put up with only at Christmastime, when it’s traditional to weigh yourself down with syrupy glasses of eggnog and old holiday entertainments. The Christmas Schooner is a new work, first performed at Northwestern University only two years ago, but like George Bailey it was born old.
Set in the 19th century with first-generation German immigrants as characters, the show is 40 minutes of story stretched over two hours: Peter Stossel decides to ship Christmas trees from Wisconsin to the poor folks in Chicago, his wife thinks it’s a bad idea because Lake Michigan is rough in November, he does so anyway–and the Christmas trees are a big hit. There’s very little dramatic tension, since the stakes aren’t nearly as high as everyone pretends they are. Drowning in a storm while attempting to deliver Christmas trees is a little like being run over by a sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.
Happily Reeger and Shannon have filled out the show with lots of ear-pleasing, slightly old-fashioned-sounding songs about being German immigrants, about eating at a German table, about being married to a German you love, about earning one’s living as a freshwater sailor of German descent.