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.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 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