Christmas past meets Christmas present

There is almost nothing I love more than the theater. Attending a live show and feeling the palpable energy that reverberates through each cramped seat is my definition of heaven. One might assume that this love of the stage was fostered in childhood. Perhaps my parents were theater geeks? Maybe I even took a spot under the bright lights a time or two, belting out “Tomorrow”?

Not hardly. I throw up whenever I’m asked to speak in front of a crowd.

No, my parents had four children, a dog, and one income. Theater was a luxury that would just have to wait. Yet I remember the night when all that changed. My mother’s first cousin is William Norris, an early member of Chicago’s Organic Theatre Company. Many years ago, “Cousin Billy” provided our family tickets to see him in his new role of Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” at the Goodman Theatre.

The performance was mesmerizing. I loved every minute of it. I couldn’t believe that such magic existed in the world.

And then we went to Pizzeria Due’s for dinner.

It was practically the best day of my life.

Surprisingly, I have not yet exposed my sons to many plays. Similar reasons apply – three kids, no dog, and one income. Yet when I was offered tickets to go see “The Christmas Schooner” at the Mercury Theater, I jumped at the chance. It is a family-friendly performance about a brave ship’s captain who risks everything to transport Christmas trees across icy Lake Michigan. His inspiration? A letter from a cousin lamenting how the German immigrants of Chicago longed for “the Tannenbaum” of childhood.

When we arrived, I was delighted with the small venue. It guaranteed an intimate performance. The place was immaculate. There was also an abundance of bathroom stalls – no long lines at intermission! Best of all? There was an adjoining bar that allowed you to take your plastic cup right to your seat.

The show itself had plenty of subtle humor and enough “action” to keep my boys enthralled. I was impressed by the quality of the voices, though my sons nudged me a few times to ask, “Why do they keep SINGING?”

Additionally, we had the good fortune of attending on “Dunkin’ Donuts Night.” We each grabbed a frosted on our way out.

Then we headed to Pizzeria Due’s for dinner.

My theater experience has come full circle. I developed an early love of the stage courtesy of a magical Christmas show, and now I had provided the same for my sons. Though to be fair, my kids can recite every lyric from Rent, Wicked, Man of La Mancha, and Les Miserables. My husband groans whenever he starts up the minivan only to be blasted with “Popular.”

By the end of the night, I felt a bit like heroic Captain Peter Stossel. Instead of risking life and limb to ensure the next generation of children would know the wonders of the Christmas tree, I braved Lake Shore Drive. IN HOLIDAY TRAFFIC. ON A SATURDAY. But the joy on my boys’ faces after the show and while they devoured Chicago deep dish was well worth the risk.

If anyone is interested in making a musical about my unparalleled valor, I am not opposed.

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