A new Christmas classic may be in the making, but don't look for flying reindeer and fat old fellows going down chimneys in "The Christmas Schooner: A Musical."
This new holiday offering from Lorain County Metro Parks and TrueNorth Cultural Arts comes to the French Creek Nature Center from Friday and runs to Dec. 14.
It's a perfect story for a Lake Erie community, said Rick Fortney who shares directing duties with Marc Moritz.
Last year's show "Uh-Oh Here Comes Christmas" was a comic look at the holiday Moritz noted. "This year were looking for something that tied in more with who we are," he said.
This first year the show will be set as a radio show. That is, the audience will watch as the radio show that tells the story is produced. The show will encourage audience participation with an "Applause" sign. The music will be provided by vocalists accompanied by two pianos, a string base and percussion. "It's truly a family show," Fortney said.
The play's story line is cheerful considering the subject is a November shipwreck on the Great Lakes. Based on the true story of the Rouse Simmons, a Great Lakes schooner lost when its captain tried to transport fir trees from Michigan's Upper Peninsula to Chicago's German immigrants during the late 19th century.
"The Christmas Schooner" debuted at the Bailiwick Repertory Theatre in 1995. The story is by John Reeger with and music and lyrics by Julie Shannon. Notable songs from the musical include "We All Have Songs," "Pass it On," "What is it About the Water?" "Winterfest Polka," "Questions," and "Hardwater Sailors."
In the musical, a fictional Michigan shipping captain named Peter Stossel travels across stormy Lake Michigan to bring Christmas trees to homesick German American families living in turn-of-the-century Chicago. The captain's wife has misgivings about the trips each year. At the end of the play, said Fortney, she comes to realize the true importance of his mission.
Unlike the true story on which the play is based, only one person dies. "He dies for a noble cause," said Fortney. "Through his death, others are blessed.
"The story tells what led to this event and how the Christmas tradition continued long after his death. It's not gloomy at all," he said.
The real story, however, is gloomy. more