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

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