Time for another Let Me Be Frank Productions show review of 2024! Next up for the season is “WIR Nights” – a show centered around the Wisconsin International Raceway. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I can’t recall a show where Frank, Pat, and the rest of the cast and crew dabbled in the world of speed racing. They’ve done shows about and at bars, bowling alleys, beaches, and brat stands (I see a “b” theme here?), but not speed racing. As someone who has never been to the Wisconsin International Raceway, I was curious to see what this show included in terms of characters, costumes, and songs, and how they were going to “race” cars on the Meyer Theatre stage. As always, LMBF pulled it off in creative (and laugh-out-loud) ways. But I’ll get to that in a second 🙂

So, what’s this story all about? Well, welcome to WKAU Radio, home of the Wisconsin International Raceway’s Thursday Night Thunder, hosted by Van VanDollock and Joe Verdegan. When they’re not too busy announcing the speedway races, they can be easily distracted by some lovely local ladies, also known as the Trophy Girls. Sarah Dickle and Lisa Vercaturen are two of the best Trophy Girls around. Is there room for another lady at the track? Well, perhaps. We have a newcomer joining the track – Anika Hatrick — who plans on racing, not just cheering the men on from the stands. She’s going up against Bobbie Johnny and Trick Dickle, best friends since childhood and two of the best racers out there. It’s uncanny that Dickle has placed 2nd in 20 races and Bobbie Johnny has placed 1st in 20 races — coincidence or is something fishy going on at WIR? Bobbie Johnny’s dad, John Johnny, attempts to coach his son and give advice from his racing days, but his eyes and heart latch on to the new lady in town, Anika. Can Anika hold her own on the track? Will Dickle and Bobbie outrace her and keep their legacy going? You’ll have to find out in our all-new comedy musical, “WIR Nights.”

As usual, one of the first things I noticed was the set! I kept staring at the backdrop wondering how they found such a perfect piece for this show. And then the on-stage car equipment! From the stacks of tires to the racing car seats, big trophies, and the mechanic toolset, the props brought the setting to life. While they clearly couldn’t put a mile-long track on the Meyer Theatre stage, I was impressed by what they did with the space they had.

I obviously must mention the actual car racing in the show. Seeing Paul and Blake come racing out in tiny model cars was hilarious. Even with a few car and battery snafus on the dress rehearsal performance I saw, it still was a highlight of the show. They’ve had a few shows over the years where they have used a car, van, or bus cutout as props, but something was exciting about seeing real battery-powered cars go across the stage.

Aside from the set and props, the show’s name let the audience know before the curtain was pulled that we were seeing a show about cars. Frank mentioned at the start of the show that all the songs have to do with driving, cars, or racing. While I always enjoy the decade genre shows with music all from the 50s, 60s, 70s, etc., I LOVE it when the music is all centered around a unique subject or a different kind of genre. This show featured “car” tunes from the 50s all the way to the 2000s and it somehow all worked and worked well. The playlist of songs was one of my favorites I’ve seen from this crew in a long time!

A few other thoughts and highlights:

+ I loved how the script incorporated Sarah Galati’s real-life pregnancy. As one of the women in the cast who has been pregnant in multiple LMBF shows myself, I know it’s fun for both the performer and audience to add those big milestones into the script. For those who don’t know, her second baby is due in August.

+ I have heard Tom Verbrick sing Hot Rod Lincoln multiple times over the years for some of our side shows, but there was something special about his rendition in this show. Perhaps it’s the extra touch of audio magic Kelly Klaus can create in the Meyer Theatre, but regardless, it was a standout song.

+ Tony Pilz’s keys solo in Singing the Blues. Here’s some obvious proof as to why we call him Mr. Orchestra – wow!

+ Hearing Lisa Borley perform Ride was such a treat for me. I am a huge fan of the original artist (ZZ Ward), and the song is featured in the Disney Cars franchise (and I have heard that song many, many, many times thanks to my 5-year-old son!). Lisa delivered a fresh and energetic performance – and dare I say I prefer Lisa’s over the original. Also, I cannot NOT mention her rendition of Freeway to Love…my goodness.

+ We all know Amy Riemer can sing anything, but you can tell she truly loved singing Drive My Car. It was a high point at the show’s end and had me dancing and singing along in my seat. And her performing a Sheryl Crow song (Everyday is a Winding Road) had me smiling the entire time. She did it such justice.

+ Blake and Paul paired together as racing buddies and childhood friends/competitors was fantastic. Their comedic energy and timing continue to grow and build as a pair. Blake’s performance of Fast Car, sitting on a stool alone with his acoustic guitar, gave me instant goosebumps. His voice was made for that song. It’s not often I get tears in my eyes from a performance, but it happened with this one. Bravo, Blake. Then, I hadn’t heard Drivin’ My Life Away in quite a long time, and Paul’s performance immediately made me add it to my Spotify queue. It was an excellent song choice for him, in my opinion.

+ Sarah Galati singing Life is a Highway was amazing to witness. She nailed that song. I wanted to rewind the live show and watch her sing it again! And her character in this show was spectacular. I adored her little quirks, bluntness, flirtation, and accent.

+ Frank Hermans and the band performing Life in the Fast Lane was a big bonus. I’m a massive Eagles fan, and I’ll take their music in any way shape, or form. Seeing my super-talented friends perform the song was incredible for me. And John Singer on that guitar solo?! YES.

+Pat Hibbard showed off some crazy vocal chops in Bad Motor Scooter. He let ‘er rip and I was Here. For. It. Plus, the features of Andrew Klaus on drums and John Singer on guitar elevated the rendition.

Even though car racing isn’t exactly my thing, I thoroughly enjoyed my evening seeing “WIR Nights” at the Meyer Theatre. What a vibrant, energetic, and fast-paced show with a standout playlist of racing tunes. Treat yourself to a night at the races with the LMBF cast and crew for a performance you won’t soon forget.

“WIR Nights” continues at the Meyer Theatre:

Friday, April 5th at 7:30pm

Saturday, April 6th at 7:30pm

Thursday, April 11th at 7:30pm

Friday, April 12th at 7:30pm

Saturday, April 13th at 7:30pm

Thursday, April 18th at 7:30pm

Friday, April 19th at 7:30pm

Saturday, April 20th at 7:30pm

Thursday, April 25th at 1:00pm & 7:30pm

Friday, April 26th at 7:30pm

Saturday, April 27th at 1:00pm & 7:30pm

Tickets are available at meyertheatre.org, ticketstaronline.com, or by calling Ticketstar at 920-494-3401. Doors open to the box office inside the Meyer Theatre for day of tickets one hour prior to each performance.

Two out-of-town performances will be held this spring. The first will take place at the Capitol Civic Centre in Manitowoc on Wednesday, April 10th at 7:00 pm. Head to cccshows.org or call 920-683-2184 for tickets and more information. The second out-of-town performance will be at The Engler Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, May 3rd at 7:00 pm.  More information, including tickets, can be found at www.englercenter.com.

The show features Amy Riemer as Anika Hatrick, Paul Evansen as Trick Dickle, Pat Hibbard as Joe Announcer, Tom Verbrick as Van VanDollock Announcer and track owner, Lisa Borley as the Trophy Queen, Sarah Galati as Sarah Dickle, Blake Hermans as Bobbie Johnny, and Frank Hermans as John Johnny.

Band: John Singer (guitars), Pat Hibbard (bass), Tony Pilz (keyboards), Andrew Klaus (drums).

Lights: Ross Loining

Sound: Kelly Klaus

Time for the first show review of 2024! This year marks 25 seasons of entertainment for Let Me Be Frank Productions. To honor this special anniversary, the cast and crew brought back one of their most successful shows in LMBF history, “2 1/2 Belgians.” This show was originally performed a decade ago in February of 2014 — and I was actually in it! I was thrilled to see this fan-favorite show, but this time from my seat in the audience and not from the stage. I still have all my costumes from the show and debated wearing one of them to the performance, but figured that would probably be a little much 😉

So what’s this story all about? Well, it takes place at the Frosty Tip in Dyckesville, just north of Green Bay. The place and city are the only real factual aspects of the story. The Frosty Tip was run from the 1960s through the 1980s by the Pankratz family. The Pankratz family consisted of nine boys, all of whom went to Premontre High School.  Mom and Dad Pankratz funded the private education of their boys by owning and operating the Frosty Tip. Due to having nine boys in a row, friends started calling each boy by the number and order of their births.  So, the boys’ names were: 1- 9.  Frank was friends with #9 (Mark) in high school and didn’t know his real name until later in life. Of course, Let Me Be Frank takes liberties with this numerical situation and makes a little fun out of it, which is where 2 1/2 comes in. The second oldest (played by Frank Hermans) is quite the large boy and Dad (Herky) and Mom (Mable) call him two and a half because calling him number two would do a disservice to the symbol. Our story takes place in the summer of 1968.  The boys are hoping for some of the female persuasion FIBs to make a stop at the Frosty Tip for some flirting and frolicking. Amy Wrigley, Lisa Halas, and Sarah McCaskey stop by in their custom ‘57 Chevy to grab a little grub before heading to Fish Creek. The boys poke a little fun at the Illinois girls, and in turn, the girls poke back. Two and a half is smitten with one of the girls and is hoping for a rendezvous at Peninsula State Park. Hilarity ensues.

One of the things I remember when I was in this show was the large assortment — as well as the frequency — of local humor and nods to real places. Granted, Let Me Be Frank Productions shows always include these, but it was turned up a notch in this show. I loved all the jokes about Wisconsin city pronunciations, food, football, stores, restaurants, and more. Having the three main ladies play girls from Illinois and the five guys be from Dyckesville allowed for a lot of regional banter and jabs in jest.

Speaking of the ladies and the guys, it’s always interesting to see the character dynamics created in the story and how they unfold during the duration of the show. From the opening scene, though, it was clear we were in for a treat as ALL the men on stage were playing brothers – not a grouping we see too often. The brotherly camaraderie and bond by One, Two, Two and a Half, Three, and Four made me laugh out loud all night long. All five displayed a great combination of physical comedy and one-liners together. While they each are hilarious in their own right, the power of comedic synergy was very evident in this show.

I also liked seeing the new props and sets used in this version of “2 1/2 Belgians”! I, of course, enjoyed seeing some old props used again, like the flaming bonfire and backdrop! But the Peninsula State Park sign (which was amazing, by the way!), and Tom’s “tent” (shall we even call it a tent?) were a great addition. Frank and the team were able to keep many visual aspects of the 2014 show the same, while still making it fresh with the new sets, costumes, and props.

A few other thoughts and highlights:

+ The lights that created the “storm” in A Day in the Life were so fun to see in the opening number. I always like seeing what Ross Loining creates on the lightboard

+ I had a smile on my face the entire time Sarah and Blake sang their duet, Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing. I appreciated the pairing of their voices together and thought they both brought something special to the song

+ The energy Paul brought to Concrete and Clay was fantastic. I’d never heard the song before, but I can imagine it’ll be stuck in my head for a few days now 🙂

+ From Pat’s lead vocals, the collective harmonies, and everyone dancing, I loved everything about Kicks. It also made me remember that (fun fact!) Jack Janowicz choreographed most, if not all, of the dances in this show! I had a flashback to him teaching us all of these moves at the former Packers Hall of Fame, which was our old rehearsal space!

+ Blake played the awkward, tripping-over-his-words, swooning-over-cute-girls teenage boy quite well.

+ Rescue Me allowed Amy to shine with so much power and soul! What a great second-act opener.

+ For multiple reasons, Mrs. Robinson is one of my all-time favorite songs Frank has ever done. I’m so glad I got to see it live again

+ Tom’s impressive whistle talents were on full display in Daydream! 

+ Lisa in Time on My Side was a true highlight of the second act. Even though I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again, she makes any song she’s given sound effortless to belt out.

+ When you’re not in the show singing the songs, it’s a lot easier to take note and appreciate the finesse and talent of the band guys with all these 60s songs. Bravo to John, Andrew, Tony and Pat — and of course, sound mixer, Kelly.

It was a surreal experience seeing “2 ½ Belgians” at the Meyer Theatre a decade after I was in it. What a fun trip down memory lane. If you need a break from the gloomy winter days and want to have a bunch of laugh-out-loud moments, head on out and see the special anniversary edition of this show.

“2 ½ Belgians” continues:

Saturday, February 3rd at 7:30pm

Thursday, February 8th at 7:30pm

Friday, February 9th at 7:30pm

Saturday, February 10th at 7:30pm

Thursday, February 15th at 7:30pm

Friday, February 16th at 7:30pm

Saturday, February 17th at 7:30pm

Thursday, February 22nd at 1:00pm & 7:30pm

Friday, February 23rd at 7:30pm

Saturday, February 24th at 1:00pm & 7:30pm

Tickets are available at meyertheatre.orgticketstaronline.com, or by calling Ticketstar at 920-494-3401. Doors open to the box office inside the Meyer Theatre for day of tickets one hour prior to each performance.

Two out-of-town performances will be held this month. The first will take place at the Capitol Civic Centre in Manitowoc on Wednesday, February 14th at 7:00 pm. Head to cccshows.org or call 920-683-2184 for tickets and more information. The second out-of-town performance will be at the Southern Door Auditorium on Sunday, February 18th at 3pm. More information, including tickets can be found at southerndoorauditorium.org.

The show features Pat Hibbard (#1 and bass guitar), Frank Hermans (#2 ½) Tom Verbrick (#2), Paul Evansen (#3), Blake Hermans (#4), Amy Riemer as Amy Wrigley, Lisa Borley as Lisa Halas, and Sarah Galati as Sarah McCaskey.

Band: John Singer (guitars), Pat Hibbard (bass), Tony Pilz (keyboards), Andrew Klaus (drums).

Lights: Ross Loining

Sound: Kelly Klaus

It’s beginning to look a lot like…”A Frank’s Christmas” at the Meyer Theatre! I had the opportunity to watch and review Let Me Be Frank Productions’ 24th (!!!) annual Christmas show during their opening weekend of performances. If you’re looking for a wonderful way to get in the holiday spirit, this is the show for you.

What’s this show all about? Well, our elves return for another Christmas season of smiles, songs, and a little bit of mischief. Frankie Fuzzballs, Amy Angel Food, Pauly Pockets, Patty Cakes, and newbie elf, Shelfie, have a new job this year. The council has been tasked with teaching Beerntsen’s Candies how to make a true chocolate yule log. However, the assignment at hand is bigger than they anticipated, and they need some reinforcements. After receiving several applications, they’ve narrowed down the pool of applicant elves who seem to possess a lot of great potential. Lisa Lollipop, Sarah Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, and Krampy Krueler are called in to interview. Shelfie seems to be the only elf who sees Kramy Krueler for what he truly is…a Krampus. Why does Krampy want to join the do-gooder elf council? And can Shelfie convince everyone of his true identity before it’s too late? You’ll have to find out!

From the opening of the curtain, the audience is hit with a bright array of Christmas colors, lights, costumes, props, and the hauntingly beautiful a cappella notes of Away in a Manger sung by Amy Riemer. I thought the opening was a fantastic way to grab the audience’s attention and give them a hint of what’s in store for the next two-hour show. The whimsical story and set brought to life before our eyes was lovely.

One noticeable aspect of this production is the use of traditional Christmas songs and carols. The song selections are ones you’ll know, (with the exception of 3 originally written songs, which I’ll get to in a minute!). Even though the songs are traditional, musical elements are often modernized. One clear example of this is What Child is This? sung by Pat Hibbard. The song is infused with rock melodies and a pulsing beat. Same with Go Tell It On The Mountain performed by Sarah Galati, which had me bopping in my seat and clapping along. Kudos to Pat Hibbard, music arranger, for taking an array of old traditional songs and making them all fresh.

Aside from the traditional songs, this show featured not one, not two, but 3 all-original songs written by Frank Hermans, Blake Hermans, and Amy Riemer, respectively. On top of all their other obvious talents, yeah, they can also write songs. Each original song brought something special to the setlist. I genuinely could see all 3 songs being on the radio with huge success.

The Christmas show usually has a song where the band is solely featured and this show definitely accomplished that! My goodness. The opening of the second act had the band front and center on stage, and even John Singer played in the aisles of the audience – which was a special touch I’ve never seen in a Frank’s show before. Each band member had a moment to shine – and shine they did! Their version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was by far my favorite version I’ve ever heard. Congratulations to Tony Pilz, Pat Hibbard, Andrew Klaus, and John Singer! And they somehow also made their elf costumes look like they belonged in a rock band 😉

A few other thoughts and highlights:
-Lisa Borley was able to demonstrate her beautiful soprano voice and classical vocal training in Gesu Bambino. The range she has is off the charts.
-The clap-on-clap-off bit throughout the entire performance showed off some impressive “freeze” talents by Blake Hermans!
O Christmas Tree allowed notable bass notes to be highlighted by Tom Verbrick.
-Additionally, Tom’s California surfer dude + evil Krampus character was a hilarious and unexpected combination.
-The use of lights and audio to show video “glitches” and sound effects was unique and memorable.
-The choir vocal section in How Great Thou Art, with Frank Hermans’ warm voice and presence at the helm, was powerful
-John Singer’s guitar solo in I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day – WOW. Every time I see him play I wish I had taken guitar lessons my entire life, so I could maybe be a fraction as good as he is now.
-The Still, Still, Still duet between Sarah Galati and Lisa Borley was remarkable. It was refreshing to hear a duet with a different pairing of vocalists in the cast. I enjoyed the harmonies and blend. It was a give-you-goosebumps song in the show (among many!).
-I’ve seen Paul Evansen do the Pauly Pockets character 4 times now (in the Christmas shows in 2013, 2014, 2022, and now 2023) and I think my favorite part of his repeat character was his crooner version of Jolly Old St. Nicholas in this show. Nobody does those types of tunes better than Paul!
-For those seeing the show on a non-school night, you’ll have a special opening act featuring 10-year-old Jack Hermans. His solo had me smiling from ear to ear!

There’s a reason “A Frank’s Christmas” has been a beloved tradition in the area for 24 seasons and counting. What a feel-good production filled with amazing Christmas music, hilarious actors, and a cute storyline. If you have the opportunity, head on out to the Meyer and check out this year’s show!

“A Frank’s Christmas” continues:
Wednesday, November 29th at 7:30pm
Thursday, November 30th at 7:30pm
Friday, December 1st at 7:30pm
Saturday, December 2nd at 7:30pm
Wednesday, December 6th at 7:30pm
Thursday, December 7th at 7:30pm
Friday, December 8th at 7:30pm
Saturday, December 9th at 7:30pm
Wednesday, December 13th at 7:30pm
Thursday, December 14th at 1:00pm & 7:30pm
Friday, December 15th at 7:30pm
Saturday, December 16th at 1:00pm & 7:30pm
Wednesday, December 20th at 7:30pm
Thursday, December 21st at 1:00pm & 7:30pm
Friday, December 22nd at 7:30pm
Saturday, December 23rd at 1:00pm & 7:30pm
Friday, December 29th at 7:30pm
Saturday, December 30th at 7:30pm

Tickets are available at meyertheatre.orgticketstaronline.com, or by calling Ticketstar at 920-494-3401. Doors open to the box office inside the Meyer Theatre for day of tickets one hour prior to each performance.

An out-of-town performance will be held at the Capitol Civic Centre in Manitowoc on Tuesday, December 5th, at 7:00 pm. Head to cccshows.org or call 920-683-2184
for tickets and more information.

Cast: Frank Hermans as Frankie Fuzzballs/Fruitcake, Pat Hibbard as Patty Cakes, Amy Riemer as Amy Angel Food, Tom Verbrick as Krampus, Lisa Borley as Lisa Lollipop, Sarah Galati as Sarah Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, Blake Hermans as the Elf on the Shelf, and Paul Evansen as Pauly Pockets.

Band: John Singer (guitars), Pat Hibbard (bass), Tony Pilz (keyboards), Andrew Klaus (drums).

Lights: Ross Loining
Sound: Kelly Klaus

Song selections:
ACT I
Away in a Manger – Amy Riemer
What Child is This? – Pat Hibbard
I Saw Three Ships – Blake Hermans
Go Tell it on the Mountain – Sarah Galati
Gesu Bambino – Lisa Borley
O Christmas Tree – Tom Verbrick
How Great Thou Art – Frank Hermans
I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day – Paul Evansen
Still, Still, Still – Lisa Borley and Sarah Galati
Joy to the World – Amy Riemer

ACT II
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer – Tony Pilz, Pat Hibbard, Andrew Klaus, John Singer
Up on the Housetop – Sarah Galati
Christmastime – Frank Hermans*
The Wassail Song – Pat Hibbard
O Little Town of Bethlehem – Lisa Borley
Jolly Old St. Nicholas – Paul Evansen
Will You Stay This Christmas Eve – Blake Hermans*
Sweet Christmas Dreams – Amy Riemer*

*originally written songs

9/15/23

Time for another show review! With an extra-long summer show this season, I felt like it had been a long time since I’d seen a Let Me Be Frank show and I was more excited than usual to check out, “Fort Howard: We Wipe America” at the Meyer Theatre. I had the opportunity to see the 4th show of the 2023 season during the cast and crew’s dress rehearsal, and I can confidently say I haven’t laughed out loud that much in a long time.

What’s this show all about? Well, you never know what will happen when the boss calls a meeting – especially at Fort Howard. A group of factory employees have gathered per boss John Cofrin’s request. Come to find out, the company has gone 100 days without a work-related injury (which is quite the feat with this crew!). Each day without an injury results in a paid bonus from Fort Howard’s insurance company. Mr. Cofrin believes it’s time to give back to the employees with a party at the Zodiac Club. The employees simply must make it a few days without an injury, and a party with an open bar is all theirs. During a shift, a problem arises that could threaten their fun and cause the party to be called off. Can the employees band together and come up with a solution? You’ll have to find out in this all-new and all-original show.

Having the show centered around a group of workers at a factory worked quite well. While often the shows have separate pairings or groups (i.e. – the ladies are one “group” and the men are another), having the entire cast as a collective workforce was fun to see. It allowed each of the colorful characters to interact with one another on different occasions. I love seeing the varying types of connections and humor that come forth when the whole team is on stage at once.

However, having the show centered around a factory with 2,000+ employees at a time (at the real life Fort Howard Company) and having only 7 actors on stage was clearly noticeable 😉 I appreciated how the cast acknowledged the inevitable historical and factual inaccuracies, and made a joke of it. With these jokes and acknowledgments, the cast seemed to break the fourth wall even more than usual. Directly interacting with the audience is something that makes Let Me Be Frank Productions stand out, and it was on a high level for the performance I witnessed.

Another aspect I noticed was the clear visual distinction between the first and second acts. The first act appeared deliberately muted in terms of costumes, props, and the set. When the curtain opened for the second act, however, you could immediately tell you were about to witness a party with flashy sequined costumes, a disco ball, and a giant backdrop. Kudos to Ross Loining on lights and Kelly Klaus on sound for making the visual and audible differences in each act noticeable, too. With each act, it appeared as though the opening song was given a lot to captivate the audience. Pat Hibbard’s rendition of Sweet Emotion by Aerosmith to start the show had me swaying in my seat with the pulsing energy. Sarah Galati and the ladies pulled the audience right back into the storyline with the lead vocal, harmonies, and flirty dance moves in Lonely Night (Angel Face) by Captain & Tennille.

With a set list from the 1970s, I was surprised I didn’t recognize many tunes in this show. I think out of the 17 songs, I recognized 5 of them. Granted, the 1970s wasn’t exactly my era of musical discovery and awakening, so don’t necessarily take my word for it   My bet is that many of our regulars in the audience will recognize many more than I did. Not having an awareness or familiarity with many of the songs enabled me to listen more closely to the lyrics, harmonies, and instrumentation. Whether or not I knew the song, the immense talent of Tony Pilz on keys, Andrew Klaus on drums, Pat Hibbard on bass, and John Singer on guitar is always easy to recognize.  It was an unexpected — but rather pleasant surprise — not to be able to hum along to each song.

A few other thoughts and highlights:

+ I was swooning at Lisa Borley’s sultry performance of Woman in Love by Barbra Streisand. And THAT NOTE near the end! My goodness!

+ It’s no surprise Amy Riemer does disco songs phenomenally. Her rendition of He’s the Greatest Dancer by Sister Sledge was one I will remember for a long time.

+ Sarah Galati mixed her rich vocal tone with an abundance of physical humor during Right Time of the Night by Jennifer Warnes.

+ Paul Evansen has a rare ability to perform a song and make it feel like he’s singing it with the audience, not at the audience. This skill of his was evident during Keep on Smilin’ by Wet Willie.

+ Frank Hermans hit his vocal sweet spot with I’ve Found Someone of My Own by The Free Movement. He does those smooth, adult contemporary songs so well.

+ Pat Hibbard’s version of Bang a Gong (Get it On) made me wish I could rewind the live performance and watch it again and again.

+ Come and Get Your Love by Redbone was a great choice to end the first act on a high note. Bravo, Tom Verbrick!

“Fort Howard: We Wipe America” continues:

Friday, September 15th at 7:30pm with a benefit show for NEWCAP, inc.

Saturday, September 16th at 7:30pm

Thursday, September 21st at 7:30pm

Friday, September 22nd at 7:30pm

Saturday, September 23rd at 7:30pm

Friday, September 29th at 7:30pm

Saturday, September 30th at 7:30pm

Thursday, October 5th at 7:30pm

Friday, October 6th at 7:30pm

Saturday, October 7th at 7:30pm

Thursday, October 12th at 1:00pm & 7:30pm

Friday, October 13th at 7:30pm

Saturday, October 14th at 1:00pm & 7:30pm

Doors open one hour prior to each performance. Tickets are available at meyertheatre.org, ticketstaronline.com, or by calling Ticketstar at 920-494-3401.

An out-of-town performance will be held at the Capitol Civic Centre in Manitowoc on Wednesday, September 27th at 7:00 pm. Head to cccshows.org or call 920-683-2184 for tickets and more information.

Cast:  Frank Hermans as John Cofrin, Pat Hibbard as the boss, Tom Verbrick as a factory employee, Lisa Borley as a factory employee, Amy Riemer as a factory employee, Sarah Galati as an engineer, Paul Evansen as a millwright.

Band: John Singer (guitars), Pat Hibbard (bass), Tony Pilz (keyboards), Andrew Klaus (drums).

Lights: Ross Loining

Sound: Kelly Klaus

 

 

 

 

 

Often at a Let Me Be Frank Productions (LMBF) show, I’m not in the category of audience members who personally experienced the theme or setting of the show. For example, I never went to St. Mary’s Roller Rink, I haven’t stepped foot in the Carlton West, and I’ve never even been to the Frosty Tip in Dyckesville! However, I DO have distinct memories of attending the BayFest festival on the UWGB grounds as a little girl. I was especially excited to see this LMBF summer show at the Meyer Theatre. For those who have fond memories of the festival, you’re in for a treat this summer.

What’s this show all about? For 29 years, BayFest was the premier music festival in Northeast Wisconsin. We go back to the 1985 event where two competing food stands are ready to duke it out to serve attendees. On one side, we’ve got the Italian father and son duo (Frank and Harrison) of A Taste of Grease food stand, and on the other side, we’ve got the Australian father and daughter duo (Pat and Amy) of Outback Jack Roadkill food stand. Why serve brats at a Wisconsin music festival when you’ve got gyros and pita pockets?! Meanwhile, musical act Vince Vance (Tom) and The Valiant’s (Lisa and Sarah) are back for another year entertaining crowds at Bayfest, much to the frustration of Pat from Outback Jack Roadkill. Vince and his gals are looking for the next big thing to add to their set and skyrocket their fame. Will one of the food stand workers possess a secret talent or two that could be a game-changer for the musical act? And will we discover why there’s such animosity between Pat and Vince Vance?

One thing I noticed immediately about the show from the moment the curtain opened was the set pieces and props. Linda Groskopf has designed and created for LMBF for many years, and her work was big, bold, and on display for this show. From the food stand fonts to the prop food pieces, I was impressed with her work (as per usual). Amy Riemer also contributes to the creation of props, adding to the many hats she wears behind the scenes to keep LMBF running performance after performance.

Another aspect that stood out to me was the way the show highlighted the newest band member, John Singer (guitar), who joined LMBF at the start of this year. I take notes during the show, and I feel like half of my notes consist of just a song title, with “John solo” written next to it, and several exclamation points. His ability to bring a song to the next level with guitar riffs and solos is incredible. He elevates the vocalists and other band members with a new energy that does not go unnoticed. PLUS, he sings in this show! We don’t often see a microphone set up for the band members to belt it out, and he shared a fantastic rendition of Do You Believe in Love to open the second act. I’m curious to see if a John Singer vocal performance becomes standard practice!

Speaking of renditions, I thoroughly enjoyed all the 80s tunes in this show. The selection of 80s songs was spectacular and had me saying, “Oh I forgot about this song!” repeatedly as I hummed along. If you’re an 80s music fan, you will love the (almost) 20 hits featured in this show.

Aside from the music and set pieces, something to note about “BayFest” is that throughout the show’s run, there will be two fundraiser performances. On opening night (June 16th), there was a benefit show for Destination De Pere, Let’s Jam of De Pere High School. And on July 14th, $10 of every ticket sold will benefit the Festival Foods Turkey Trot, Boys & Girls Club, and Greater Green Bay YMCA. While Let Me Be Frank Productions gives back to our community throughout the entire year, it was nice to be reminded, specifically, how this show will contribute to two local organizations.

A few other thoughts and highlights:

+ At only 12 years old, Harrison Hermans displays impressive vocal range and tone in this show. Specifically, Sussudio stood out during the front portion of the show.

+ Amy Riemer’s performance of These Dreams by Heart. Amy has done several Heart songs over the years, and each one is my new favorite. What a display of her powerhouse vocals! If we’re taking votes on adding Heart to the Frank’s Tribute set with Amy as Ann Wilson, I’m a confident yes! 🙂

+ Sarah Galati has such a sultry warmth to her voice, as highlighted in All Around the World. And oh my goodness that ending! Geez!

+ Lisa Borley shares So Emotional by Whitney Houston like it’s no big deal, even though to everyone else, it’s a very big deal. Wow.

+ Frank Hermans opening the show with Hall & Oates was something I didn’t know I needed – what a great choice to open the show.

+ Tom Verbrick’s Need You Tonight is a number I’ll definitely remember from this show. I enjoyed the lead vocals, harmonies, and Lisa and Sarah’s dancing was superb.

+ Wild Wild West performed by Pat Hibbard gave a jolt of energy to the midpoint of the first act and had me shimmying in my seat. It also gave me an extra moment to appreciate the workings of the entire band — Andrew Klaus (drums), Tony Pilz (keys), John Singer (guitar), and Pat on bass

+ The sound mixing by Kelly Klaus showcased the harmonies of all the vocalists. It was impossible to ignore how well everyone’s voices blended. Backed by the lighting effects via Ross Loining, it was an audio/visual hit in my book

Don’t miss your chance to hear the stunning vocals and hit 80s tunes this summer!

“Bayfest” has remaining performances at the Meyer Theatre:

Friday, June 30th at 7:30pm

Saturday, July 1st at 7:30pm

Thursday, July 13th at 7:30pm

Friday, July 14th at 7:30pm

Saturday, July 15th at 7:30pm

Thursday, July 20th at 7:30pm

Friday, July 21st at 7:30pm

Saturday, July 22nd at 7:30pm

Thursday, July 27th at 7:30pm

Friday, July 28th at 7:30pm

Saturday, July 29th at 7:30pm

Thursday, August 3rd at 1:00pm & 7:30pm

Friday, August 4th at 7:30pm

Saturday, August 5th at 1:00pm & 7:30pm

Doors open one hour prior to each performance. Tickets are available at meyertheatre.org, ticketstaronline.com, or by calling Ticketstar at 920-494-3401.

An out-of-town performance will be held at the Capitol Civic Centre in Manitowoc on Wednesday, July 26th at 7:00 pm. Head to cccshows.org or call 920-683-2184 for tickets and more information.

Cast:  Frank Hermans and Harrison Hermans as father and son proprietors of A Taste of Grease food stand, Pat Hibbard and Amy Riemer as father and daughter proprietors of Outback Jack Roadkill food stand, Tom Verbrick as Vince Vance, and Sarah Galati and Lisa Borley as Vince’s backup singers, The Valiant’s.

Band: John Singer (guitars), Pat Hibbard (bass), Tony Pilz (keyboards), Andrew Klaus (drums).

Lights: Ross Loining

Sound: Kelly Klaus

Song selections:

Act I:

Did It In a Minute – Hall & Oates (Frank Hermans)

Sussudio – Phil Collins (Harrison Hermans)

These Dreams – Heart (Amy Riemer)

Wild Wild West – The Escape Club (Pat Hibbard)

Everywhere – Fleetwood Mac (Sarah Galati)

When I Think of You – Janet Jackson (Lisa Borley)

Karma Chameleon – Culture Club (Tom Verbrick)

So Emotional – Whitney Houston (Lisa Borley)

Why Me – Irene Cara (Amy Riemer)

Breakout – Swing Out Sister (Sarah Galati)

Act II:

Do You Believe in Love – Huey Lewis & The News (John Singer)

Straight Up – Paula Abdul (Amy Riemer)

Need You Tonight – INXS (Tom Verbrick)

Sledgehammer – Peter Gabriel (Frank Hermans)

I’m Still Standing – Elton John (Harrison Hermans)

Freeze-Frame – The J. Geils Band (Pat Hibbard)

All Around the World – Lisa Stansfield (Sarah Galati)

Joyride – Roxette (Frank Hermans and Amy Riemer)

New Attitude – Patti LaBelle (Lisa Borley)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 7, 2023

Given how winter has dragged on this year (well, for me it has!), I was excited to take a trip to “Punta Kaukauna” with the Let Me Be Frank Productions crew for their newest show at the Meyer Theatre. From the music to the costumes and lights, the show was a wonderful evening “away” to a tropical island.

So what’s this show all about? Well, after 20 long years working toward earning their college degrees, Frank, Pat, and Paul of UWO’s Pi Sigma Old Guy fraternity are finally ready to graduate! As a graduation gift, Frank’s dad offers to send the guys down to Punta Cana for an all-expense paid trip. Since they’re accustomed to partying at Anduzzi’s in Kaukauna, this will be quite a change of scenery. Before leaving, they fill out dating profiles for The Club from Unda in Punta Cana. Meanwhile, three single-and-ready-to-mingle ladies — Amy, Lisa, and Sarah — are Thilmany employees who learn the company is offering an all-expense paid trip to Punta Cana. All they must do is find a winning tag under the wrapper of a Kaukauna Cheese Ball (which, of course, they do!). The ladies fill out their dating profiles before jet-setting off as well. We can’t possibly imagine what will happen when the guys and gals get to their vacation destination and realize a little matchmaking is in store. Tom, who runs the Club from Unda, isn’t quite sure what to make of these Midwestern folks and certainly has his work cut out for him. Hilarity ensues.

For those who have been to a Let Me Be Frank Productions show in the past, you are aware Frank Hermans shares a little speech before the top of each show. Frank mentioned this show’s music selection is a little out of the norm for the troupe. Instead of choosing a time-specific genre (e.g., the 1960s, 1970s, etc.), this show features island music. Because the music is based on a theme instead of a specific decade, the songs range from the 1950s to the early 2000s. I was pleasantly surprised I could hum along to each song (only in my head, of course!). I was dancing in my seat and continued to look forward to the opening notes of each new song. I love the “regular” shows that feature a set decade of hits, but I appreciated this change in the music dynamic. While there is no doubt Frank, Pat, and Amy know what they are doing when it comes to choosing music and crafting a hit show, I think having a few more shows with themed music would be fun to see in the future. I have plenty of suggestions in my head if anyone wants to know a few 😉

The music was lively and rhythmic and allowed each band member to be highlighted. Tony Pilz (keys), Andrew Klaus (drums), John Singer (guitar), and Pat Hibbard (bass), each had rightful opportunities to shine with solos. The band makes each performance and song look effortless when that’s far from the case. “Punta Kaukauna” showcases the adaptability and high caliber of the Let Me Be Frank band, and I hope audience members take a moment to appreciate those in LMBF with the instruments in hand.

Another aspect that stood out to me in this show was the dancing! I’ll be honest, dancing is not my personal strong suit as a performer, and I don’t usually focus on it while viewing a show — but it was impossible not to notice this time around. The upbeat music called for lots of movement, and there were several more songs than usual with accompanying choreography. Audience members may not know the cast choreographs the songs themselves. There was a total of 7 choreographed songs in this show (usually it’s 3 or 4 per show). The additional movement elevated and propelled the performances forward.

A few thoughts and highlights:

+ Amy Riemer’s choreography AND vocals in Rhythm of the Night. Her ability to shake and groove while also belting out those high notes is continually impressive.

+ Sarah Galati and Lisa Borley both bring the vocal heat to Guantanamera and La Isla Bonita, respectively, singing in different languages! Kudos to both of you!

+ Each character I see Paul Evansen portray, I think, “This is my new favorite of his.” I thought his character in “Seroogy’s, Green Bay’s Willy Wonka” couldn’t be topped, but it turns out I was wrong. Paul, I don’t think you have any idea how incredibly entertaining you are to us audience members!

+ I Can See Clearly Now performed by Frank Hermans was such a treat. From his costume choices and awkwardly shy character, he had me cracking up all night long.

+ Lisa Borley, Amy Riemer, and Sarah Galati all have a featured Gloria Estefan song. Each woman made their Gloria Estefan song their own with beautiful vocal nuances and stylings. Bravo!

+ Tom Verbrick is the master of accents. It’s clear over two decades with the troupe, he takes anything given to him and runs with it. I don’t know what he could be given that he couldn’t tackle with a natural ease and humor.

+ Electric Avenue performed by Pat Hibbard was another clear fan favorite, as those around me were ALL  bopping their heads and singing along.

+ As always, the sound mixing by Kelly Klaus highlighted each vocalist and band member, and the notable light show by Ross Loining was a work of art in it of itself

“Punta Kaukauna” was a delightful escape from the cold, wind, and rain that made me wish I was on a sandy beach with a cocktail in hand, preferably with the cast recording playing on a speaker on repeat.

“Punta Kaukauna” has remaining performances at the Meyer Theatre:

Friday, April 7th at 7:30pm
Saturday, April 8th at 7:30pm
Thursday, April 13th at 7:30pm
Friday, April 14th at 7:30pm
Saturday, April 15th at 7:30pm
Thursday, April 20th at 7:30pm
Friday, April 21st at 7:30pm
Saturday, April 22nd at 7:30pm
Thursday, April 27th at 1:00pm & 7:30pm
Friday, April 28th at 7:30pm
Saturday, April 29th at 1:00pm & 7:30pm

Tickets are available at meyertheatre.org, ticketstaronline.com, or by calling Ticketstar at 920-494-3401.

An out-of-town performance will be held at the Capitol Civic Centre in Manitowoc on Wednesday, April 12th, at 7:00 pm. Head to cccshows.org or call 920-683-2184 for tickets and more information. The show will also take place at The Engler Center for the Performing Arts in Chilton on Sunday, April 30th at 7:00pm. Head to https://englercenter.ludus.com/index.php?step=seats for tickets.

Cast:  Frank Hermans, Pat Hibbard, and Paul Evansen as fraternity guys, Amy Riemer, Lisa Borley, and Sarah Galati as Thilmany employees, and Tom Verbrick as the runner of the Club from Unda.

Band: John Singer (guitars), Pat Hibbard (bass), Tony Pilz (keyboards), Andrew Klaus (drums).

Lights: Ross Loining

Sound: Kelly Klaus

Song selections:

No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems (Kenny Cheney) – Frank Hermans

Margaritaville (Jimmy Buffet) – Paul Evansen

Rhythm of the Night (DeBarge) – Amy Riemer

Electric Avenue (Eddy Grant) – Pat Hibbard

I Can See Clearly Now (Johnny Nash) – Frank Hermans

Sway (Pussycat Dolls) – Lisa Borley

Guantanamera (Joan Baez) – Sarah Galati

Escape (The Pina Colada Song) (Rupert Holmes) – Tom Verbrick

Get on Your Feet (Gloria Estefan & The Miami Sound Machine) – Lisa Borley

ACT II

Sharing the Night Together (Dr. Hook) – Frank Hermans

Cheeseburger in Paradise (Jimmy Buffet) – Pat Hibbard

All Night Long (Lionel Richie) – Amy Riemer

Limbo Calypso (Geoffrey Holder) – Tom Verbrick

La Isla Bonita (Madonna) – Lisa Borley

Three Little Birds (Bob Marley) – Paul Evansen

Rhythm is Gonna Get You (Gloria Estefan & The Miami Sound Machine) – Sarah Galati

I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me) (George Michael & Aretha Franklin) – Amy Riemer and Frank Hermans

Conga (Gloria Estefan & the Miami Sound Machine) – Amy Riemer

 

February 3, 2023

Each time I see a Let Me Be Frank Productions show, I’m reminded how different it is to be in a show versus watching a show. I always leave with a sense of wonder and pride that I have been privileged to share the stage with this troupe. Seeing the opening night performance of “Seroogy’s, Green Bay’s Willy Wonka” was no exception.

Frank Hermans asked me to take a stab at sharing a bit more about our shows from my perspective, perhaps for folks who are looking for more of the nitty-gritty details and who might be debating if this is the show for them. While we all have favorite genres, styles of humor, and types of characters, I can promise you’ll find something to love about this show.

If you haven’t heard the show’s premise yet, I’ll catch you up to speed. The story centers around Seroogy’s chocolate factory. Willy Seroogy (Frank Hermans) places three golden tickets in chocolate bars around Northeastern Wisconsin. Each child who finds the golden ticket is invited to a tour of the chocolate factory with their parents. Veruca Salt (Amy Riemer), who is quite the spitfire with attitude to boot, is the first winner. She and her father, Henry (Pat Hibbard), hail from Escanaba and are a little demanding, to say the least. The next winner is Violet Beauregarde (Lisa Borley), champion gum chewer and fiercely determined young lady, from Kaukauna. Her mother, Scarlet (Sarah Galati), is all too excited for the opportunity to get some facetime with the chocolate man himself, Willy Seroogy. And finally, we have Charlie (Blake Hermans), and his father Chucky (Paul Evansen), from Chicago. As the guests begin their tour, they discover a chocolate factory like none other filled with secret inventions, strange workers, and bizarre candy creations. Hilarity ensues.

What I enjoyed most about this show was its sensory overload, and I mean that in the best way possible. Visually speaking, the props, costumes, backdrop, and set pieces are wildly vibrant. Ross Loining, Let Me Be Frank Productions’ lighting pro, has a unique ability to elevate the performances visually. There’s one scene in the second act where a blackout takes place. While the audience knows something is happening on stage in the dark, the reveal with the use of lights made me audibly gasp in delight. You’ll know exactly what part I’m talking about if and when you see the show.

Next, I was impressed how sound mixer, Kelly Klaus, can make a cast of eight individuals sound like a robust choir during certain songs. I’ll admit, I wasn’t as familiar with this show’s song selections as I usually am attending a performance. However, that’s probably more of a reflection of my music knowledge (or lack thereof, I guess!). Regardless if I could sing along or not, it was impossible to ignore the blend of voices and harmonies. Kudos to vocal director, Amy Riemer for that!

A few thoughts and highlights:

+ What’s Goin’ On (Marvin Gaye), performed by Blake Hermans. Alone on stage with just the backdrop behind him, he’s captivating. Blake has the type of voice that makes me spend way too much time making an imaginary playlist of all the songs I’d love to hear him perform someday.

+ Pat Hibbard performing a song by The Rolling Stones is a definite standout for the entire band — Andrew Klaus on drums, Tony Pilz on keys, and John Singer on guitar.

+ From her accent and foot stomping to her costume and facial expressions,

Amy Riemer as Veruca Salt is *chef’s kiss* — and then how she belts out Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me (Gladys Knight & the Pips) like it is no big deal!

+ Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me (Robin McNamara), performed by Sarah Galati. Maybe it’s because she had a baby in October, but she legit glows while singing. Couple that with her “let me talk to the manager” wig/costume and sultry stage mom character and you’ve got yourself a winning combo.

+ All of Frank Hermans’ songs! His songs veer from his “normal” and showcase a musical theater quality to his voice.

+ Tom Verbrick as the Oompa Loompa of the factory. His lyrical narration had me cracking up and I can only imagine where they’ll go as the show continues. The deadpan, annoyed factory worker character works for him. But then again, most characters work for him, am I right???

+ Lisa Borley’s performance of Stick-Up (Honey Cone) soars. She has an effortless swagger and energy when she sings, and this song highlights it in addition to her obvious vocal talent.

+ Tony Pilz on the BONGOS!

+ The juxtaposition of Paul Evansen as a smarmy, obnoxious used car salesman while sharing his songs with such a warmth to his voice.

+ The character pairings. Sarah Galati and Lisa Borley make a cute and quirky mother/daughter duo, and I think Blake Hermans and Paul Evansen should be put together more often (although I was hoping for some heavy Chicago accents in this show!).

Opening night was the first performance of the first show of Let Me Be Frank Productions’ 24th season of entertainment, and I’d say it kicked off the year on a very sweet note.

*******************************************8

“Seroogy’s: Green Bay’s Willy Wonka” remaining performances at the Meyer Theatre include:

Saturday, February 4th at 7:30pm

Thursday, February 9th at 7:30pm

Friday, February 10th at 7:30pm

Saturday, February 11th at 7:30pm

Thursday, February 16th at 7:30pm

Friday, February 17th at 7:30pm

Saturday, February 18th at 7:30pm

Thursday, February 23rd at 1:00pm & 7:30pm

Friday, February 24th at 7:30pm

Saturday, February 25th at 1:00pm & 7:30pm

Tickets are available at meyertheatre.org, ticketstaronline.com, or by calling Ticketstar at 920-494-3401.

An out-of-town performance will be held at the Capitol Civic Centre in Manitowoc on Wednesday, February 15th, at 7:00 pm. Head to cccshows.org or call 920-683-2184 for tickets and more information.

Cast and band:  Frank Hermans, Pat Hibbard, Amy Riemer, Tom Verbrick, Lisa Borley, Sarah Galati, Blake Hermans, Paul Evansen, John Singer (guitar), Pat Hibbard (bass), Tony Pilz (keyboards), Andrew Klaus (drums), Ross Loining (lights), Kelly Klaus (sound).

Act 1:

I Like Dreamin’  (Kenny Nolan) – Frank Hermans

Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me (Gladys Knight & The Pips) – Amy Riemer

Stick-Up (Honey Cone) – Lisa Borley

Beautiful Sunday (Daniel Boone) – Paul Evansen

Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me (Robin McNamara) – Sarah Galati

What’s Goin’ On (Marvin Gaye) – Blake Hermans

Pure Imagination (Lou Rawls) – Frank Hermans

The Candyman (Sammy Davis Jr.) – Tom Verbrick

Brown Sugar (The Rolling Stones) – Pat Hibbard

I Want Candy (Bow Wow Wow) – Amy Riemer

Act 2:

I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (The New Seekers) – Lisa Borley

The Right Thing to Do (Carly Simon) – Sarah Galati

Up the Ladder to the Roof (The Supremes) – Lisa Borley

Come And Get It (Badfinger) – Pat Hibbard

Nice to be With You (Gallery) – Paul Evansen

One Less Bell to Answer (The 5th Dimension) – Amy Riemer

(There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me (Sandie Shaw) – Sarah Galati

I Just Can’t Help Believin’ (B.J. Thomas) – Frank Hermans

Doesn’t Somebody Want to be Wanted (The Partridge Family) – Blake Hermans

Next up: Punta Kaukauna at the Meyer Theatre, April 7-29, 2023

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Originally posted here on Saturday, June 11, 2022: 

Warren Gerds, Critic at Large

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – After twenty-something years, Let Me Be Frank Productions still has tricks up its sleeve. It could be called extraordinary, but that’s a dirty word in the show troupe’s double-entendre-filled latest venture that opened Friday night at Meyer Theatre.

The trick: Around the theme of songs related to “Lady,” each of the eight singers in the troupe sings a different song in rotation one after another. It’s eight songs, eight styles, backed by a live band that seems to be able to play anything in the popular music realm. You’re not going to see that musical trapeze act in anything but “Baxters Where Everybody Knows Your Name.”

The troupe did something similar in the previous “WOMA Algoma, You’ve Struck Gold” with six songs in rotation by brother acts. This ups the ante with the clever idea.

Also special in this production is “Walk Like an Egyptian.” Singing the fun song while moving in synchronized fun movement – “Egyptian style” – are Sarah Galati, Kasey Schumacher, Amy Riemer and Lisa Borley. The piece is a tricky trick times four.

Overall, the show is another elaborate tale that sets the plate for singing, this time featuring songs of the 1980s pop charts, mostly. It tells of corporate espionage through behind-the-scenes shenanigans at a chain restaurant that existed in Green Bay from 1981 to 1987.

In his show introduction, troupe namesake Frank Hermans says he waited tables there for seven months in 1983 before getting fired. One night, he brought in $100 in tips, he says. He also played on the restaurant’s baseball team. Thirty-eight years after the fact, he wears his team uniform in the show.

Most of the people in this Frank Hermans/Pat Hibbard story have personality disorders.

The setup is two people from the TGI Fridays chain have come to Baxters to check out all the menu and theme ideas that are being stolen by Baxters. The man (Paul Evansen) is chauvinism on the hoof, and the woman (Kasey Schumacher) is a walking encyclopedia who corrects pronunciations and everything else of the lame-brained manager (Frank Hermans).

The wait staff runs from sweet (Lisa Borley) to sour (Sarah Galati) to spicy (Amy Riemer).

In the kitchen are the insistent cook (Pat Hibbard) who insists he is not just a cook but a finesse-filled chef and his assistant (Tom Verbrick) with a Spanish accent with a self-appointed mantel of lady killer.

The menu is laced with hormonal jokes along with delicious byplay between the characters.

The sound is set too LOUD, again, for my taste, but my complaint falls on deaf ears. I guess the volume adds excitement to the revved-up style of music.

Weaving through the story are COVID-19 references. This show was originally scheduled in 2020 but postponed because of the pandemic. Frank Hermans says he had to change some lines from back when – which he notes seems so long ago. Lisa Borley has a line that touches on that, telling someone, “It’s so 2020 of you.”

The singing catches the styles, one song after the other. The music aura of the time is somewhat eh in depth. But the color is certainly there for the singers to impress and add group action as for Paul Evansen’s lead in “Stray Cat Strut,” Amy Riemer’s lead in “Single Ladies” and Kasey Schumacher’s lead in the finale, “Hit Me with Your Best Shot.”

After being “hospitalized” for the pandemic, this show comes out healthy.

Originally shared here.

Warren Gerds, Critic at Large. GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – A Green Bay TV anchorman got into radio ownership and along the way purchased a station from a disc jockey/owner who then turned to the ministry.

Thirty-seven years later, that has become the story for a comedy musical by a troupe that creates such shows and whose namesake attends the church of the former disc jockey/owner.

The title of the show draws on how the station identified itself on air, “WOMA Algoma, You’ve Struck Gold,” when it featured hit songs from the 1960s and ’70s.

The characters in the show are the people who worked at the station on air and behind the scenes – all of whom sing in the comedy musical of Let Me Be Frank Productions show troupe.

In keeping with all Frank’s shows about people and places around these parts, the facts and history are fractured – to add bits of humor and fun to lead into the next song, sung in often-golden ways with a band adding to the musical polish.

This time, co-writers/directors Frank Hermans and Pat Hibbard concoct stuff about fish falling from the sky during Algoma’s Shanty Days festivities and a news director who believes in imaginary walls and doors and three women workers who sing the station’s theme song in perfect harmony at the drop of the hat.

This is all because the Rev. Dale Eggert ministers at Faith United Methodist Church in Brillion and parishioners include show folks Frank Hermans and his wife, Amy Riemer.

“He’s my pastor,” Frank Hermans says to introduce the show in which he portrays Dale Eggert at the time WOMA was sold to onetime WLUK-TV anchorman Ray Wheeler.

That’s quite the backstory for a show filled with hits from a golden era of popular song-making.

Especially hitting the spot is a duet, “The Closer I Get to You,” sung radiantly and with layers of meaning by Amy Riemer and Frank Hermans.

That follows a brilliant sequence that only Frank’s can do because it can: Six songs from brother groups sung one after another by singers matched to a song’s style. Taking turns are Sarah Galati for the Everly Brothers, Frank Hermans for the Allman Brothers, Lisa Borley for the Doobie Brothers, Tom Verbrick for The Righteous Brothers, Amy Riemer for The Isley Brothers and Pat Hibbard for The Chambers Brothers. And the band set the plate colorfully for all.

Frank’s singers have a way of interpreting songs to blend their vocal style to their character’s situation – not duplicating but fitting.

Tom Verbrick has two voices in this show. One is squeaky/nerdy as the news guy, and the other is from the deep end, as in “King of the Road.”

Frank Hermans is versatile as always, with “Take Good Care of My Baby” as the story climax song as Dale Eggert says goodbye to his station.

Amy Riemer is master of embracing a R&B/soul sound as in “On Broadway.”

Pat Hibbard is the rock guy with a kind of joy in the muscle of songs like “It’s My Life,” while adding layers with his bass guitar playing.

Lisa Borley is the skyrocket person, sparking such high-fliers as “Shame” and “Band of Gold.”

Sarah Galati is an actor-singer who deals in persona as in Carly Simon’s “Nobody Does It Better.”

And there are the moments when the singers stand back to admire what Dennis Panneck explores on guitar, Tony Pilz lets fly on keyboards and Andrew Klaus gets into on drums.

And this time, all this is because a guy who bought an early FM radio station felt a different calling. Well, that’s showbiz, I guess.

***

Running time: Two hours, seven minutes

Remaining performances: Meyer Theatre, Green Bay: 7:30 p.m. April 7-9, 14-16; 1 and 7:30 p.m. April 21; 7:30 p.m. April 22; and 1 and 7:30 p.m. April 23, with info: meyertheatre.org. Capitol Civic Centre, Manitowoc: 7:30 p.m. April 13, with info: cccshows.org.

Cast:

Dale Eggert – Frank Herman

Tim Wentworth – Tom Verbrick

Sarah Martini – Sarah Galati

Sandy – Amy Riemer

Sally – Lisa Borley

Tom Wagner – Pat Hibbard

Band and support: Dennis Panneck (guitars), Pat Hibbard (bass), Tony Pilz (keyboards), Andrew Klaus (drums), Ross Loining (lights), Kelly Klaus (sound)

Originally posted here. 
February 5, 2022

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – A whole lot is going on in any Let Me Be Frank Productions show. Together, they’re a Green Bay cultural phenomenon – homegrown originality that has lasted for 22 years and counting.

Frank’s latest comedy with music of a popular music era is “The Franky Bunch,” which is running much of the month at Green Bay’s Meyer Theatre with a side date at Manitowoc’s Capitol Civic Centre.

The show kind of/sort of borrows from “The Brady Bunch” that ran in prime-time TV from 1969 to 1974. There are takeoffs on characters and the main story line, with music picked from the charts during that time. Obvious in recent Frank’s shows, the music is cranked up loudly.

The story gives the singers characters they can build singing emotions into. That’s a high-tone way of saying the singing is really good.

My goodness, in this show there’s a presence (not copying but embracing an aura) of Aretha Franklin – Amy Riemer in “You’re All I Need to Get By”…

Of Stevie Wonder – Blake Hermans in “My Cherie Amour”…

Of Roberta Flack – Sarah Galati in “Feel Like Makin’ Love”…

Of a kind of solar flare – Lisa Borley in “(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All”…

Of rockin’ flair – Frank Hermans with the band that can play practically anything in the popular realm, Dennis Panneck laying in the guitar finesse, in “Alright Now.”

Without the story, these would just be a list of songs from a karaoke night. With the story, there are laughs along with a bit of cheese and cultural shocks. The cheese: References to hanky panky. Cultural shocks: Dad Brady’s favoritism for his three sons over his three stepdaughters, spiced with layers of male superiority that brought consistent audience reaction on opening night Friday.

Some of the laughs in the story have to do with the parental unit insisting that the children are grown enough so they should get a life and move out of the house. An interior joke is the people playing the children are not teenagers, and two are of grandparent age. Frank’s artistic license is that of special decree that begins, “Be it resolved that – only in Green Bay, Wisconsin – there shall be two fellows who write anything they want for a laff so singers can sing stuff that sort of fits in… dah, dah, dah.”

Each singer-actor creates a personality who teases his/her TV original mercilessly. There is a lot of inside stuff about the original series, though it’s not necessary to be into that show because the satire is super-thick – with the performers enjoying layers and layers of quirkiness. Two samples: Greg (Pat Hibbard) is “affectionate” toward step-sister Marcia (Amy Riemer), who has developed an “affectionate” TikTok audience. Peter (Tom Verbrick) squeakily whines about being overlooked, though nobody pays attention to him and his father can’t ever get his name right.

All this is done in ’60s-style flashy-colored clothing along with wigs galore.

It’s bizarre fun, Frank’s style. And loud.

Side thought: Entertainers love audiences. It goes with the territory. Sometimes, they signal that on stage. Sarah Galati has a gesture in “Feel Like Makin’ Love” that goes with the phrase “to you.” She opens her arms, and it seems her “you” is the audience in that moment. Subtle.

***

Running time: Two hours, five minutes

Remaining performances: Meyer Theatre, Green Bay: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 5; 10-12, 17-19; 1 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25; 1 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 26; info: meyertheatre.org. Capitol Civic Centre, Manitowoc: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16; info: cccshows.org.

Cast:

Dad Brady – Frank Hermans

Greg – Pat Hibbard

Marcia – Amy Riemer

Peter – Tom Verbrick

Cindy – Lisa Borley

Jan – Sarah Galati

Bobby – Blake Hermans

Band and support: Dennis Panneck (guitars), Pat Hibbard (bass), Tony Pilz (keyboards), Andrew Klaus (drums), Ross Loining (lights) and Kelly Klaus (sound)

***

Songs

Act I

“Brady Bunch Theme” song – All, with video

“Smile a Little Smile for Me” (Flying Machine) – Frank Hermans

“Oh My My” (Ringo Starr) – Tom Verbrick

“My Baby Loves Lovin’” (White Plains) – Blake Hermans

“Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast” (Wayne Newton) – Frank Hermans

“Everybody Plays the Fool” (The Main Ingredient) – Sarah Galati

“Peaceful” (Helen Reddy) – Amy Riemer

“I’ll Be There” (The Jackson 5) – Lisa Borley

“Give Me Love” (George Harrison) – Pat Hibbard

“Love or Let Me Be Lonely” (Friends of Distinction) – Sarah Galati, all

Act II

“(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All” (The 5th Dimension) – Lisa Borley

“Girl” (Davy Jones) – Blake Hermans

“Brand New Key” (Melanie) – Amy Riemer

“Feel Like Makin’ Love” (Roberta Flack) – Sarah Galati

“Mr. Big Stuff” (Jean Knight) – Lisa Borley

“My Cherie Amour” (Stevie Wonder) – Blake Hermans

“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” (Steam) – Pat Hibbard

“Alright Now” (Free) – Frank Hermans

“You’re All I Need to Get By” (Aretha Franklin) – Amy Riemer

“It’s a Sunshine Day” (The Brady Bunch) – All

***

NEXT (at Meyer): “WOMA Algoma: You’ve Struck Gold,” April 1-23.

THE VENUE: Stop and look around the place. Meyer Theatre’s auditorium is an eye full. Located at 117 S. Washington St. in downtown Green Bay, the Meyer is one of the state’s colorful historic theaters. In its current form, the Robert T. Meyer Theatre opened Feb. 27, 2002. It seats approximately 1,000. The building dates back much farther. It opened Feb. 14, 1930, as one of the palatial Fox movie houses. The place is picturesque. The theater’s interior aura was its saving grace toward the end of the 20th century, when the building was faced an uncertain fate. The architectural/decorative style is defined as Spanish Atmospheric. The auditorium is designed in the manner of a Moorish courtyard of old. The eclectic mix of architectural styles and colors carries throughout the lobbies.

THE PEOPLE: Robert Meyer was president and chief executive officer of Tape Inc. of Green Bay. The theater took his name at the behest of his wife, Betty (Janet Elizabeth) Rose Meyer, whose financial contribution at a crucial time helped revitalize the building. The Rose family has a history of deep commitment to and involvement in the well-being of Green Bay. Robert Meyer died in 1984, Betty Rose Meyer in 2008.