“This is a show with songs from the ’80s.” “This is a show with songs from the ’60s.” “This is a show with songs from the ’70s.” That’s a nutshell take on what Green Bay show troupe Let Me Be Frank Productions does time after time with its big shows of comedy stories laced with popular songs. Instead of just reeling off songs in a concert-like setting with light displays and dancing, the troupe digs around and finds stories from the area’s past and concocts elaborate sagas that mix fact with a whole lot of fiction. Thus, we have “Rattle Those Pots and Pans, Mirro Style” with Manitowoc’s Mirro Aluminum Company at the center of the action.
“Rattle Those Pots and Pans, Mirro Style” runs through Oct. 15 at the Meyer Theatre in downtown Green Bay. There’s an extra performance at the Capitol Civic Centre in Manitowoc that should prove interesting because that theater is not many blocks away from a huge former Mirro building that’s headed for demolition not far ahead.
Mirro was around from 1909 to 2003, at one time being the nation’s No. 1 producer of cookware. “Rattle Those Pots and Pans, Mirro Style” is on site in a Mirro workspace in 1982 at a turning point for the company – ownership change. That may sound like a stretch for the creation of a show, but it’s right in the wheelhouse for the troupe’s brand of satire and song.
Creative: Writers – Frank Hermans, Pat Hibbard; music director – Dennis Panneck; vocal director – Amy Riemer; choreography – Kristin Melotte; sound – Kelly Klaus; lighting – Tracey Cook; costumes and props – Linda Groskopf and Bev Riemer
Cast: Lisa Borley, Kasey Corrado, Frank Hermans, Heath Hermans, Pat Hibbard, Amy Riemer, Tom Verbrick, with band: Adam Cain, drums; Pat Hibbard, bass; Dennis Panneck, guitars; Tony Pilz, keyboards; Heath Hermans, drums (sometimes)
Running time: Two hours, 18 minutes
Remaining performances: 8 p.m. Sept. 24, 29, 30, Oct. 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15 at Meyer Theatre, Green Bay; 7:30 p.m. Oct. 19 at Capitol Civic Centre, Manitowoc
The show has quite the setup. It starts with a video. Supposedly, we’re seeing an episode of a reality TV series, “Undercover Boss.” The boss in this episode (played by troupe namesake Frank Hermans) tells how he is going to go into disguise and infiltrate Mirro to find at all he can about the people who work there prior to his company taking over. First, he gets expert advice on how to speak “Manitowocian.” That starts with a primer on “Two Rivers.” It’s “Trivers,” don’tchaknow? The boss reveals his disguise: Instead of a neat haircut and tailored suit, he opts for a stack of frizzy hair and a Mirro uniform shirt. Flash to the plant, depicted as a breakroom with a backdrop of large factory windows. The boss becomes Seth Pool, a jack-of-all-trades on his first day on the job. At this point, creators Frank Hermans and Pat Hibbard take a lot of dramatic license (tongue-in-cheek) with the character types they create for the Mirro workers:
They are a drunk (played by Heath Hermans), a stoner (Tom Verbrick), a stealer of company stuff (Amy Riemer), a brownnose (Pat Hibbard), a union rep (Lisa Borley) and a showoff tootsie (Kasey Corrado). Sound like Human Resources Dept. heaven to you? Of course not, but the rogues gallery is key to the fun of “Rattle Those Pots and Pans, Mirro Style.”
All of the performers develop characters so they can sing with meaning when they’re featured. All are out-there, but two are out-out-there in ways with language. Hibbard’s character talks in circles; he spirals around a subject like you know he is thinking but on the way where he wants to go if you know what I mean he would like to be direct but it’s like this in his scrambled eggs head the words he tries to connect with his mouth have a hard time being spit out. Whew. Riemer works a dialect in exacting ways as her vernacular is made up of sentences that end on a high point, as if in a question, over and over and over.
All this is backdrop for why people come to Frank’s shows, the singing. The live band with Dennis Panneck coloring the proceedings with guitar solos is a plus.
Many singers try to emulate Ann Wilson of the band Heart. She had a certain power and range, a drive and sky-high luster. Amy Riemer is a singer who succeeds and wows in Heart songs. There are three in this show. Two are rock heat, and the third is luscious blues. Riemer owns them.
Riemer also sings two duets with Hermans (always a bonus). Notably, one is “We Just Disagree,” an involving song that was recorded by Dave Mason but written by Jim Krueger, a Manitowoc native who is remembered fondly.
Hibbard is solid in delivering rock songs time after time, Heath Hermans provides a scruffy version of a Bruce Springsteen song and Tom Verbrick catches the tone of a Gordon Lightfoot hit.
Lisa Borley soars. There’s extra echo juice in her “I Know There’s Something Going On.” Borley and the band also hit a groove with “Hot Summer Nights.”
That song follows another kick-it song sung by Kasey Corrado, who adds special touches in this show. Going into one song, she flips through a cartwheel. Near the end, Corrado fires off a rapid-fire rap in “Ice Baby” and doesn’t miss a micro-moment of delivery. In character, she gets spacey after getting conked on the head in a mishap from a pressure-cooker test.
The show starts with a reference to Mirro making pressure cookers – reaching the one million mark on the day the story starts – in the song “Under Pressure.” It’s a David Bowie weird song that had me going wha? But Hermans and Hibbard get to do what they normally don’t – Hermans hitting a freaky high and long note. Odd start over, the show tools along in a lot of interesting ways