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.
“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).
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
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