Show History



The Christmas Schooner is based on the true story of the Rouse Simmons, a Great Lakes schooner that sunk in a violent storm on Lake Michigan in 1912. The Rouse Simmons was known affectionately as The Christmas Tree Ship because it was one of the many ships that transported fir trees from Michigan's Upper Peninsula to Chicago's German immigrants during the late nineteenth century. Legends and superstitions have grown up around the wreck (as is common in seafaring culture), and some people claim to see ghosts where it crashed. Part of the mystique of the Rouse Simmons comes from the fact that it washed up on the shore with no crew, but its cargo of Christmas trees was still intact.


The Christmas Schooner premiered at Bailiwick Repertory Theatre in 1995. A more-than-twenty-year continuous seasonal run has followed, as well as successful productions in the Midwest, Texas and California.

The Mercury Theater in Chicago mounted a production in 2011. This was the first major production of The Christmas Schooner in the Chicago city limits since the Bailiwick Repertory Theatre in 2008. It began previews on November 16, 2011, and opened on November 19, 2011.

Cultural Influence

  • Painter, Charles Vickery, did a famous painting of the Rouse Simmons that was an inspiration for the musical.
  • The Christmas Schooner wrecked on the coast of Two Rivers, Wisconsin. The ship's legacy lives on in the area, with frequent ghost sightings and tourist attractions along its final route.
  • A cast recording was made of the Bailiwick Repertory Theatre production that has set records with its run.