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Indepth Arts News:

1999-11-29 until 2000-01-02
Bailiwick Arts Center
Chicago, IL, USA United States of America

A double helping of Good Cheer is being prepared this season at the Bailiwick Arts Center, 1229 West Belmont, when Belinda Bremner's drama MRS. CONEY shares the BAC Mainstage with the heartwarming Chicago tradition THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER, by John Reeger and Julie Shannon. While both of these productions are full of the holiday spirit, their popularity at Bailiwick remains unabated due to their dramatic underpinnings. The tone of THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER is overwhelmingly beautiful as it tells the true tales of the pioneers who brought Christmas trees to fire-ravaged Chicago late in the last century. However, audiences come back year after year for the powerful writing in the second act's hospital scene, where Reeger's book and Shannon's score work in perfect harmony to repair a damaged relationship between a strong daughter and her equally strong father-in-law. SCHOONER reminds us that no matter the hardships, we must remember our histories, honor our ancestors, and treasure the living.

In a season that is often reduced to obtaining material possessions, MRS. CONEY illustrates in the most beautiful way that not all gifts can be purchased. With a word, a gesture, a song, it shows family relationships that are both complex and caring.

Returning for the third time, MRS. CONEY is a delightful story of a small boy whose family loses everything during the dustbowl in America's heartland earlier this century. Told by James who as an adult is a writer, we relive the year that Jamie turns 11 as he watches his Ma and Pa lose the family farm, and suffer a move to the strange territory of the Kentucky Hills. Now sharing a small house with Aunt May and Uncle Bob, Jamie retreats to the woods where an unexpected act of kindness ultimately brings great joy. Filled with the haunting music of Woody Guthrie and the American Depression, and fiddle and guitars versions of traditional carols, MRS. CONEY is a beautiful tale, simply told.

GAIL CURRY returns for the third time to play the title character, and AARON CHRISTENSEN returns for the second year as James. CYNTHIA COOK DE LA FUENTE and MARK HABERT play Ma and Pa, with MARY MICHELL and DENNIS MURPHY as Aunt May and Uncle Bob. KEVIN CHEVALIA, who recently starred in the movie THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY plays young Jamie, and BRIAN DANIEL SHARPE makes his Chicago debut as the musician. Musical Direction for MRS. CONEY is by veteran JACQUELINE KRUPKA, with set by JACQUELINE PENROD, lighting by ERIC APPLETON, and stage manager AMY HOLZHAUSEN. DAVID ZAK directs.

MRS. CONEY opens on Monday November 30 at 7:30.MRS. CONEY previews Friday and Saturday November 26 and 27 at 7:30, and Sunday November 28 at 5:30. Preview tickets are $15, or $13 for students and seniors. Opening Night is Monday November 29 at 7:30. ($20)

Regular performances are Wednesdays and Fridays at 7:30, and Saturdays and Sundays at 5:30 to January 2, 2000. Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, $15 for children 15 and under. There are no performances on December 3, 24, 25, or 31.

One of Chicago's favorite holiday musicals THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER sets sail for the fifth time in the Bailiwick Mainstage opening Monday December 6 at 7:30. This delightful, sprawling work tells the true story of the pioneering sailors who braved the icy waters of Lake Michigan to bring Christmas Trees to fire ravaged Chicago in the 19th century. Starting in the small towns of Michigan where Swiss and German immigrants till the land, SCHOONER follows the Stossel family - grandfather Gustav, son Peter and his wife Alma, and their son Karl as they prepare the ships, harvest the trees, and make sail across the huge body of water. Filled with great music, delightful dances, and great cheer, THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER delivers an emotionally satisfying evening of theater, full of the highs and lows of an ocean voyage.

PHIL GIGANTE steps into the role of Captain Peter Stossel for Schooner 99, with AMY ARBIZZANI playing his wife Alma. Veteran TOM HIGGINS who earned a Jeff Nomination for his work in the show, returns for the fourth time as Grandfather Gustav Stossel. Third grader BRENDON MARTIN joins the cast in the starring role of Karl, with high school scholar CHRISTOPHER GROBE playing Karl at age 16. Others in the cast include BEN STONER, DAVID VISH, KEVIN BISHOP, and PAUL MULLEN as the sailing crew. SONJA SWITZER plays Cousin Martha, with BETSY GARGANO, KERA DELAY, and JULIE BOESCH as the women of Manistique, and EMA TUENNERMAN returning as 10 year old Mary Clare Daugherty.

Musical direction for THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER is by JEREMY RAMEY with direction by ADAM THEISEN and DAVID ZAK. Choreography is by Brenda Didier. The designing team of NORWOOD RICE (Costumes), JACKIE PENROD (Set) and ERIC APPLETON (lights) returns to guide the crew of The Molly Doone to Chicago and back.

THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER previews November 27, 28, at 2:30, December 2 and 3 at 7:30, December 4 at 2:30 and 7:30, and December 5 at 2:30. Previews $20, $18 for Seniors, $15 for students under 15. Opening Night is Monday December 6 at 7:30. ($25)

Regular performances are Thursdays at 7:30, Saturdays 2:30 and 7:30, and Sundays at 2:30 to January 2. There are no performances December 24, 25, or 31. There are additional performances of THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER on December 21, 26, and 28 at 7:30. Tickets for THE CHRISTMAS SCHOONER are $20 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, ($18 for seniors, $15 for students 15 or younger), and $25 on Saturdays and Sundays ($20 for seniors, $15 students 15 or under).

A very special event is scheduled for Sunday Night December 12 at 7:00 - the very first DO IT YOURSELF SCHOONER. Featuring casts of the current and production Schooner voyages, audiences are invited to sing along with SCHOONER classics like We All Have Songs, Hardwater Sailors, What Is It About the Water, and The Christmas Schooner. A dessert buffet will be featured at intermission of the performance, and SATB Sheet Music will be provided. All tickets for DO IT YOURSELF Schooner are $20.

For group sales and reservations, please call 773-883-1090.

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