Thursday, December 29, 2016

Review of The Christmas Schooner at Mercury Theater

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called The Christmas Schooner. The book was by John Reeger and the music and lyrics were by Julie Shannon. It was directed by L. Walter Stearns and the musical direction was by Eugene Dizon. The choreography was by Brenda Didier. It was about a family of German heritage in Michigan who had gotten a letter from their cousin Martha (Cory Goodrich) in Chicago about how they couldn't get Christmas trees in the city. So the father Peter (Stef Tovar) decides that he is going to go to Chicago on a boat with all of his crew to deliver Christmas trees. This is all fine and dandy for a few years and then something terrible happens and everyone has to get through it and deliver the Christmas trees anyway. It is about family, the importance of tradition, and the dangers of seafaring.

I loved the conversation between Peter's son Karl (Peyton Owen) and Alma (Brianna Borger), Karl's mother, about the Christmas pageant at school. There was a hilarious joke that went something along the lines of "These kids at school were arguing about whether the Angel or Mary was the more important part. And one of them said 'It's harder to be a virgin than an angel.'" I couldn't stop laughing. Another charming moment is where Peter and Alma were dancing with some strudel when he had gotten back from delivering Christmas trees the first time. It was clear that he had really missed Alma and wanted some alone time. But it was funny how important the strudel was to the whole endeavor. One thing I really loved was how committed the actors who played this couple were to each and every one of their songs and scenes.

"The Blessing of the Branch" shows a German tradition in an American home and how much it means to them to have this tradition in their house. All of their friends--Rudy (Daniel Smeriglio), Oskar (Brian Elliott), and Steve (James Rank)-- and the grandpa Gus (Don Forston) pass it around the table with care. I think this is very sweet. At the end of the show they pass the branch throughout the audience, and I think that was a appropriate way to end the show. It reminds you how important tradition is to the family in the show.

In order to talk about a problem I have with the show, I have to give you a bit of a spoiler. Peter dies in this show because he is trying to deliver the trees in hazardous conditions. He falls overboard and dies. Everybody is very sad about this for a short time. But then the crew and his son Karl (Christian Libonati) decide it is really important to get those trees to Chicago this year, right now. So they decide to leave the hospital and get the trees that magically washed up on shore and put them on a different boat. Then they go to Chicago with the Christmas trees because they decide that the Christmas spirit is more gosh darn important than a man's life. I would feel like crap if I knew that I got my Christmas tree only because a guy died and he had a kid and a wife who had risked their own lives to bring me the Christmas tree because the Christmas spirit was so important. I don't feel like that is the best moral for a story, as you might have guessed from how I am phrasing these sentences. And it really made me mad that no one acknowledged how right Alma was about how dangerous it was to bring out the Christmas trees. Everyone was like, "No. It is totally fine. We'll bring your son with us too! It will be a blast!" And then everyone convinces her to take over her husband's part on the boat. They don't seem to value women's opinions, but the play still tries to make it seem feminist by making her the "captain."

People who would like this show are people who like family traditions, the importance of Christmas, and sexy strudel. I could tell the actors were really committed to this show and the audience really seemed to enjoy it. This is not fully my type of Christmas play, but I think many people will like it.

Photos: Brett A. Beiner

No comments: