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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Daddy D’s Christmas capers delight

There’s even a routine about the Leo Frigo Bridge.

GREEN BAY, Wis., (WFRV) – The best part of this year’s Christmas show of Daddy D Productions? Whew, that’s a toughie.

The entertaining show (4½ stars out of 5) sometimes swings wildly from sequence to sequence, with one section just as good as the next for totally different reasons. One sample:

Troupe leader Darren Johnson and Doug Dachelet come out as yahoo ice fishing buddies and produce a rap – yes, a rap song that finds Johnson tossing off snappy word rhythms and body moves while Dachelet maneuvers on the floor like a flipped turtle. Pure goofus stuff. Next song: Johnson in “Mary You Know,” which is wholly reverent and in which Johnson’s voice is mostly flowing but springs to dramatic crescendos for effect. Such rapid swings would be jarring except in a Daddy D Productions show.

This production continues through Saturday, Dec. 14, at the Riverside Ballroom, then moves to the Stadium View Dec. 18-21. Info: www.daddydproductions.com.

Show list

“Ho Ho Ho ... and a Bottle of Rum,” Bob Balsley and Band

“Christmas in the Air,” Darren Johnson, Doug Dachelet, Shelly Emmer, with Lara Asma, violin

“Count Your Blessings”/“White Christmas,” Doug Dachelet

“That’s What Christmas Means to Me,” Woody Mankowski

“Pie Jesu,” Shelley Emmer, Laura Asma

Jolly Holly comedy bit, Darren Johnson

“The Christmas Song,” Doug Dachelet

Edith and Archie comedy bit, Shelly Emmer, Darren Johnson

“Go Tell It on the Mountain,” Darren Johnson

“Carol of the Bells,” Darren Johnson, Shelly Emmer, Doug Dachelet, Lara Asma, Barb Hinnendael, Bob Balsley

“All I Want for Christmas is You,” Shelly Emmer

Frigo Bridge comedy bit, Darren Johnson, Doug Dachelet

“Hotel California”/“We Three Kings” adaptation, Bob Balsle   y

“O Holy Night,” Doug Dachelet, Lara Asma, violin, Band

Trans Siberian Orchestra-style instrumental, Band – Lara Asma, violin; Bob Balsley, guitar; Dan Collins, sound and lights; Barb Hinnendael, keyboard; Jeff Hinnendael, drums; Woody Mankowski, saxophone/flute; Ryan Sette, bass

“This Christmas,” Woody Mankowski

“I’ll Be Home for Christmas”/military salute, Darren Johnson

“Silent Night,” Doug Dachelet and company

Doug’s Advice Column, comedy bit, Doug Dachelet, Darren Johnson

“O Come Emanuel,” Lara Asma, violin, Barb Hinnendael, piano

“Santa Baby,” Shelly Emmer

Carnac the Magnificent, Doug Dachelet, Darren Johnson

“Where Are You Christmas,” Shelly Emmer, Lara Asma, violin

Ice fishing rap, Darren Johnson, Doug Dachelet

“Mary Did You Know,” Darren Johnson

“Alleluiah”/“Halleluiah Chorus,” all

The show includes a bit of wondrous humor. Picture two engineers (Johnson and Dachelet) working on the Leo Frigo Bridge project. They tease about Green Bay’s infamous bridge-with-a-dip, then break into song, with the lyrics of “Let It Snow” transformed and ending, amazingly, with emphasis on Le-o Fri-go.

Also amazingly transformed, by Bob Balsley, is “Hotel California” into a sacred number about the “lowly place” (the manger) as a “holy place.” As is his method, Balsley layers “We Three Kings” into his guitar creativity.

The women feature splash in their wear, first in multi-hued lamé tops with open shoulders, then with strapless red gowns – with Shelly Emmer further offering classy wear for her “Santa Baby” and “Where Are You Christmas.” The latter is a big, showy rock/pop number that cranks up the energy and volume.

Lara Asma and Woody Mankowski shape the show in their individual ways. Asma colors songs with violin or voice. Mankowski’s vocal solos are hip bluesy, a vibe that expands the show’s scope.

The show is a collaborative effort, as Johnson notes from the stage, but his showy voice and crackling humor help bring people in the door.

SPECIAL NOTE: Johnson calls attention to the coming “Random Acts of Kindness Concert” to raise money ($5,000 goal) for next November and December when he and company members plan to go out in the community and give the money away in random acts of kindness.

THE VENUE: The spacious Riverside Ballroom Crystal Ballroom is the heart of the 1936 Art Moderne building on Green Bay’s east side. Performances are on a raised stage on which rock ‘n’ roll legends Buddy Holly, Richie Vallens and the Big Bopper performed a famed concert. Seating is at round tables on the ballroom floor. The ballroom features high, sweeping, laminated wood beams with streamlined, curved decoration at the base of each beam. Hanging from the ceiling are Czechoslovakian crystal chandeliers. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places. Imagine the Green Bay Packers holding practice inside the ballroom. That happened a few times, according to a Packers Heritage Trail plaque outside.

NEXT SEASON: At Riverside Ballroom except where noted: “Random Acts of Kindness Concert,” Feb. 27; “Stuck in the Sixties,” March 13-15, 20-21; “Country Classics,” May 8-9, 15-16; “Radio Days,” Sept. 4-5, 11-12; “Shake, Rattle & Roll,” Oct. 23-24, 30-Nov. 1; “The Christmas Show,” Dec. 10-13, (Stadium View), Dec. 17-20.

You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air features on WFRV at 6:45 p.m. Thursdays and every other Sunday between 6 and 8 a.m. (usually around 7:45 a.m.)

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