ALGOMA, Wis. – This is the 18th year that Let Me Be Frank Productions show troupe of Green Bay has put on a Christmas show. The show stories are not even close to being the same from year to year. This year, the setting is 1890s Waupaca.
Now, the songs are not of that era.
And the history is fractured.
And the characters are all made up.
But the story toddles along comically with the cast members playing colorful characters, some more goofus than the others.
The goofus-e-ist is Slushy Morals. He is presented to us speaking only Swedish – “Galut ga meeka abuck,” or something like that. And what he says – usually something not nice – can only be translated by Randolph Weidneer (how’s that for a name?).
The tongue-in-cheek about Randolph is he is the adopted son of the operator of Kringall’s Cocoa bar, where a specialty is hot cocoa on the rocks. Randolph is from Ireland (so he can wear a green outfit), and is trying to be the “baddest outlaw” but is failing because something kindly always comes of his crimes.
This Pulitzer Prize material carved from “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (kinda/sorta) is the setup for the troupe’s showcase singing. Featured are troupe namesake Frank Hermans and the three female cast members, assisted by the live, know-every-style-under-the-sun band.
The music is all Christmas-sss-sss-sss-ish. Often, songs you have indelibly placed in your head are presented in revised renditions based on established stars’ styles. It would be too boring for Let Me Be Frank Productions to present the song in same old, same old ways, so the troupe’s choices of interpretations always bring a fresh, or at least different, spin to the Christmas show scene.
+ “Go Tell It on the Mountain” with Kasey Schumacher painting the song prettily.
+ “Noel” – not anywhere near “The First Noel” – with Lisa Borley and the band building drama.
+ “Here Comes Santa Claus,” with Frank Hermans turning on his Elvis motor.
+ “The Man with the Bag,” with Amy Riemer getting one of the few chances in this show to let fly her R&B forte.
Michael O’Malley pours out all sorts of character acting in the story, and his Randolph Weindeer is a fun role. In one nutty scene, Randolph and sidekick Slushy Morals are on the lam after holding up the bank and are warming up at a campfire. Of course, there is no real fire on stage, and when the scene ends, Randoph drags the fake campfire prop off stage by its electrical cord.
Pat Hibbard is around for his forays into rock songs and for his language-twisting character, The Miner. Here’s one thing The Miner says: “I used to drink a lot.” Pause. “Still do, but I used to, too.”
The show has some “wild west” stunt action. Randolph and the Sheriff (Tom Verbrick) carry side arms, and each can twirl the guns. Lisa Borley gives a gun a convincing spin, too. Randolph and the Sheriff get into a fight, and O’Malley and Verbrick have at it in a frisky, physical scene that includes a whack with a fake bottle.
Music in the show includes many of the major styles – pop, rock, country – with the band also creating an old music hall flavor in one song and a polka romp in another.
By the time the run ends Dec. 29 for “A Frank’s Christmas: Randolph the Baddest Outlaw,” the show will have played in four cities, with most of the performances being at Green Bay’s Meyer Theatre. I caught up with the show Saturday night at Algoma Performing Arts Center. While there was no large backdrop like in the troupe’s home theater, the players’ performances were consistent with what they normally do – which is fairly energized. They used to perform well. Still do, but used to, too.
Creative: Writers – Frank Hermans, Pat Hibbard; vocal director – Amy Reimer; music director – Dennis Panneck
Cast: Narrator/Bartender; Frank Hermans, Randolph Weindeer – Michael O’Malley; Noel the First – Amy Reimer; Jumpin’ for Joy – Kasey Schumacher; Missy Toe – Lisa Borley; The Miner – Pat Hibbard; Sheriff Wunhorst Whopenslae – Tom Verbrick; Slushy Morals – Heath Hermans
Band: Guitar – Dennis Panneck; keyboard – Tony Pilz; drums – Adam Cain; bass – Pat Hibbard
Running time: Two hours
Remaining performances: Green Bay, Meyer Theatre: 8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, to Dec 23, plus 1 p.m. Dec. 7, 14 and 16. Info: ticketstaronline.com. Chilton, Engler Center for the Performing Arts, Chilton High School: 7:30 p.m. Monday, Dec. 11. Info: englercenter.com. Manitowoc, Capitol Civic Centre: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 29. Info: cccshows.org.
“Randolph the Baddest Outlaw” (Frank Hermans) – Frank Hermans
“The Man with the Bag” (Kellie Pickler) – Amy Riemer
“Joy to the World” (Francesca Battistelli) – Kasey Schumacher
“Here Comes Santa Claus” (Elvis Presley) – Frank Hermans
“Run Run Rudolph” (Luke Bryan) – Pat Hibbard
“Christmas Cookies” (George Strait) – Tom Verbrick
“Go Tell It on the Mountain” (Francesca Battistelli) – Kasey Schumacher
“Noel” (Chris Tomlinson featuring Lauren Daigle) – Lisa Borley
“Jingle Bell Rock” (Blake Shelton) – Frank Hermans and Amy Riemer
“Nuttin’ for Christmas” (Sugarland) – Michael O’Malley
“Jingle Bells” (rock version) – Band
“Let It Be Christmas” (Alan Jackson) – Frank Hermans
“City of Silver Dreams” (Sugerland) – Amy Riemer
“All I Want for Christmas is You” (Vince Vance and the Valients) – Lisa Borley
“Blue Christmas” (Lady Antebellum) – Michael O’Malley
“Meet Me Under the Mistletoe” (Randy Travis) – Pat Hibbard
“Please Come Home for Christmas” (Eagles) – Kasey Schumacher
“Must Be Santa” (Bob Dylan) – Heath Hermans
“Up on the Housetop” (Reba McEntire) – Amy Riemer
“Marshmallow World” (Francesca Battistelli) – Lisa Borley, all