Janesville’s Armory starts new holiday tradition

JANESVILLE, Wis.—The Armory’s holiday season sets sail with the delightful new seasonal tradition, The Christmas Schooner. The Armory has commissioned a full orchestration of the score, and it will make its world premiere at The Armory, Nov. 16-Dec. 23.

Full of lively dances and a wonderful sense of history and drama, this musical tells the story of the Stossels, a 19th-century family, whose patriarch braves the winter waters of Lake Michigan to bring Christmas trees to thousands of immigrant families in Chicago aboard the lumber schooner, the Molly Doone.

The play is based on the historic events of the schooner the Rouse Simmons, whose voyages, captained by Herman Schuememann, brought Christmas trees from Michigan to the Clark Street docks in Chicago. “These voyages were more than simply delivering Christmas trees; they made it possible for first-generation immigrants, eager to cherish the traditions of their Old World, to share them with new generations and their new country,” said theater Director Jim Tropp.

The Armory commissioned accomplished composer Renick Ross to write a full orchestration of The Christmas Schooner score. Written for a 10-piece ensemble, the orchestration adds depth, body and vibrancy to the original piano score. Musical numbers include heartwarming songs like “We All Have Songs” and “The Blessings of the Branch” as well as the lively “That’s America.”

“The vocal talent of the cast will delight audiences,” said Jim Tropp.

Captain Peter Stossel is played by Ken Church, who lives in Janesville and is the first local professional to have a leading role at The Armory.

“Ken has a powerful voice and has performed professionally in the U.S. and Europe. We’re fortunate to have him so close,” added Jim Tropp.

The Christmas Schooner was written by John Reeger with music and lyrics by Julie Shannon. The musical premiered in 1996 at the Bailiwick Repertory Theater in Chicago and won the Chicago After Dark Award that same year for outstanding new work.

During its nearly 10-year continuing seasonal run at the Bailiwick, The Christmas Schooner has received countless media accolades and fans.

Ticket prices range from $63 to $72, and include an elegant meal, which is themed to the show, prior to the performance prepared by the Armory’s own executive chef, Russell Herrington. Shows are performed Thursday-Saturday evenings as well as Saturday and Sunday matinees. Extra Sunday evening performances have been added for The Christmas Schooner. For tickets, call the Armory Box Office at (608) 741-7400. For group-rate tickets, contact Marty Berg toll free at (866) 995-2991.

The Armory follows the holiday season with another outstanding lineup of high-quality entertainment and cuisine, including Grease, Jan. 25-April 1, 2007; Cabaret, April 12-May 27, 2007; Little Shop of Horrors, Sept. 6-Oct. 21, 2007; and The Christmas Schooner, Nov. 1-Dec. 23, 2007.

The Armory Complex

Built in the 1930s, used during World War II by the 192nd Tank Battalion and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the newly-renovated Armory is leading the rejuvenation of downtown Janesville, Wis., as the area’s newest and most exciting entertainment venue. The Armory offers three distinct dining experiences. The Drill Hall Theater combines elegant dining in a theater setting with professional, musical productions. Modern, casual dining and an outdoor patio are featured in the Bunker Lounge. Contemporary dining, with an emphasis on American and French cuisine, is found in the sophisticated atmosphere of Lieutenants Restaurant. For more information, visit www.janesvillearmory.com or call (866) 995-7400.

From the Nov. 15-21, 2006, issue

Enjoy The Rock River Times? Help spread the word!