The Christmas Schooner | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Christmas Schooner

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The Christmas Schooner, Bailiwick Repertory. How quickly things become a tradition. John Reeger and Julie Shannon's syrupy historical musical first opened at Bailiwick last year, but it already shows signs of becoming a Bailiwick perennial (despite its lack of male nudity). The characters are still shallow stereotypes, the songs are still forgettable, and the story's still not that compelling. The big question of the book--will Peter Stossel's crazy idea of bringing Christmas trees to Chicago from Wisconsin and Michigan fly?--is still answered by the end of the first act, forcing Reeger to come up with some twists in the story line to justify making the thing a full-length musical.

Last year the show was crammed into the studio space on a stage so small the actors were always in danger of colliding. This year David Zak moved it to Bailiwick's much larger main stage--an improvement, since its flaws are much less apparent when the director's able to suggest not only a cozy small-town home, but a dock in Chicago and the deck of a schooner. The scene in the second act in which the Christmas schooner passes through the kind of November storm that sank the Edmund Fitzgerald is especially moving this year.

--Jack Helbig

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