PHOTO: Performing in Let Me Be Frank Productions’ “Beauty and the Beaver” are, from left, Tom Verbrick, Ben Cahall, Pat Hibbard, Dennis Panneck, David Gusloff, Lisa Borley, Adam Cain, Kasey Corrado, Amy Riemer, Tony Pilz and Frank Hermans. Production photo
The setup for the “Beauty and the Beaver” (4½ stars out of 5)…
- Characters/story: We’re with the Cleavers – Beaver, Wally, Ward and June from TV’s “Leave It to Beaver.” Ward gives Wally and the Beav 40 cents each to whoop it up at the Brown County Fair and maybe meet a couple of girls. The two-faced Eddie Haskell is around to help the boys in his fashion and to admire Mrs. Cleaver. (It’s a given with Frank’s shows that there is a certain amount of suggestive humor).
- Music: Pop rules. The show’s songs have a beat, a rhythm, a sweet-ish simplicity and innocence. It’s an era of a catchy play with made-up words – “Whee-ooh, whee-ooh, hoo-ooh-oop-whee-ooh, whee-ooh” and “A tick, a tick, a tick, good timin’, a tock, a tock, a tock, a tock, a timin’ is the thing.” Romance runs from dreamy in “Tammy’s in Love” (beautifully sung by Amy Riemer, who is something else as a vocalist, period) to semi-operatic robust in “Night” (with David Gusloff taking on the lush style) to earnest in “Forget Him” (with Frank Hermans turning on his resonant voice). This show is so specific in style that Pat Hibbard, the troupe’s go-to guy for LET’S ROCK BIG songs, is left somewhat adrift in all the songs with no rock edge. (That’s not a cut; it’s just the style of the show).
Cast: Frank Hermans as Ward Cleaver, Amy Riemer as June Cleaver, Ben Cahall as Theodore “Beaver” Cleaver, David Gusloff as Wally Cleaver, Pat Hibbard as Eddie Haskell, Lisa Borley as Lisa Andre from Hobart, Kasey Corrado as Kasey Corrado from Howard and Tom Verbrick as fortune teller Alli Booby. Band: Dennis Panneck, guitar; Tony Pilz, keyboard; Adam Cain, drums; Pat Hibbard, bass.
“Love is Strange (my sweet baby, you’re the one),” Frank Hermans and Amy Riemer
“Popsicles and Icicles,” Amy Riemer
“If You Want to be Happy” aka “Get an Ugly Girl to Marry You,” David Gusloff and Ben Cahall
“Never on a Sunday,” Lisa Borley
“Sincerely,” Kasey Corrado
“(I’m Always) Dreamin’,” Pat Hibbard
“(I’m Living Right) Next Door to an Angel,” Frank Hermans
“Lollipop,” Amy Riemer, Lisa Borley, Kasey Corrado
“Let Me In,” Lisa Borley
“Love Potion No. 9,” David Gusloff
“Hot Rod Lincoln,” Tom Verbrick
“Tammy’s in Love,” Amy Riemer
“Bobby’s Girl,” Kasey Corrado
“The Gypsy Cried,” Ben Cahall
“Night (Here Comes the Night),” David Gusloff
“Good Timin’,” Ben Cahall
“Forget Him,” Frank Hermans
“Party Lights,” Amy Riemer, Kasey Corrado, Lisa Borley
“The Boy I Love,” Lisa Borley
“Step by Step,” Pat Hibbard and all
Much of the story takes place at the Brown County Fair. One ongoing bit turns around a mechanical fortune teller played by Tom Verbrick, decked out as a sultan. There’s lots of good comedy stuff about the future. Another bit is about the talent portion of the 1959 Fairest of the Fair contest; Kasey Corrado’s “talent” is doing the splits while chugging a beer (co-writers Frank Hermans and Pat Hibbard’s type of humor all the way). Another bit is another priceless visual for the Frank’s annals – a bearded lady and a strongman in a poke-in-the-eye suit. (I don’t want to give away surprises here).
The ’50s style of music is the Frank’s wheelhouse of singing. The troupe likes melodies, likes catchy lyrics that the singers can hang a character on, likes the chance to SING in showcase ways. Some songs, for instance, are built for Ben Cahall’s falsetto. All the songs are from well before the singers were around (except Hermans), and it’s interesting how they take to them, like Kasey Corrado in “Sincerely” and Lisa Borley in “Let Me In.”
Reviewing Frank’s shows is something of a challenge because there is so much to them and they’re all kind of weird (yet fun) as songs arrive at the mere mention of a word. Also, the shows change from night to night because the performers improvise, particularly Hermans. Friday’s opening night show found Hermans playing off a rant by Ward Cleaver as a series of folks trickled in late, with the mock anger being of the moment.
REST OF SEASON: “Golden Bowl: Mixed Couples,” June 6-21; “
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