GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV)
Originally posted here.
And a partridge in a pear tree.
That, too, is in the latest Let Me Be Frank Productions show, which is sort of what the old Fleet Farm line is to Christmas shows: If “A Frank’s Christmas” doesn’t have it, you don’t need it.
Even in the mix is sweet soulful reverence.
The Green Bay-based show troupe’s 20th Christmas show is running to Dec. 28 in the Meyer Theatre.
As usual, the story around a musical showcase contains a tad of truth. “In 1982, I was fired from Fleet Farm,” namesake Frank Hermans says at the start. Hermans goes on to say why and note that the man who fired him now works as part of his operation.
Hermans and creative partner Pat Hibbard dream up a story that one of the box retailer’s stores battles Amazon with a shopping-experience-enhancement plan: Have employees dress as their favorite Christmastime characters in a toyland theme. The rah-rah store manager is into team building and employee rewards.
Much, much goes into setting up the next song. Many of the songs are from Christmas albums that big acts have come up with, including additions to the genre by Taylor Swift, Def Leppard, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty and U2.
Let Me Be Frank Productions doesn’t make same old, same old Christmas shows.
As always, all the singers act as individual characters they are dressed as. This time, they go from a Sugar Plum Fairy with a sweet tooth for candy and nut packages she happens to find open, to a sassy Mrs. Santa Claus, to an Elvis in a fire-engine red and snowflake-enhanced jumpsuit, to the pointy-hatted elf from the movie “Elf,” who spouts scientific explanations on any topic under the sun. And more.
All sorts of kidding goes into the character-making. Frank Hermans’ Elvis outfit, for instance, includes an ankle bracelet compliments of the Brown County Sheriff’s Office… in keeping with his character’s life of misfit messin’ up.
All the characters are loose wheels, with the loosest being Blake Hermans and Zach Hibbard as Heatmiser and Snowmiser, respectively, from “The Year Without a Santa Claus.” Along with individual features, the two team for an outstanding rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The song has scores of versions. Theirs is especially over-the-top physical comedy with tongue-in-cheek add-in lines. The two go through the whole songs – the leaping lords and ladies dancing and maids a-milking and the whole shebang – always ending up with Zach Hibbard being the tree and Blake Hermans on his back squawking like a partridge in a pear tree. The thing is funny and amazing and ends with the two reeling from the workout.
The general tone of the show is fun and games with Tom Verbrick, dressed as Scrooge, as the eager store manager weaving the storyline. The music is primarily pop (star-driven) with the prime luster coming from the three female singers as soloists and/or teammates. An example is Sarah Hibbard taking the lead on “Santa Baby,” with Amy Riemer and Lisa Borley adding colors in support.
A major section is “The First Noel.” Lisa Borley takes the sensitive lead; she is silhouetted at the start in special lighting effects. Behind her providing harmonic support are Amy Riemer, Frank Hermans, Sarah Hibbard, Tom Verbrick, Blake Hermans and Zach Hibbard. The song is part of the reverence I referred to.
It also comes in “In the Bleak Midwinter” with Blake Hermans soloing and in “O Come All Ye Faithful” with Amy Riemer, who soars in an especially long and pure note.
The costuming, the dance add-ins, the band setting a multitude of musical landscapes (Dennis Panneck playing five guitars), goofy comedy, serious moments (some referencing charity), personal anecdotes – there’s a whole lot in this Christmas package. Very entertaining.