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.