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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Frank’s replays ’60s, local tale in jolly ‘Belgians’

The troupe has fun with its story set at a drive-in in Dyckesville.

PHOTO: In Let Me Be Frank Productions’ “Two and a Half Belgians” are, from left, David Gusloff, Pat Hibbard, Tom Verbrick, Dennis Panneck, Frank Hermans, Adam Cain, Amy Riemer, Lisa Borley, Kasey Corrado and Tony Pilz.

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – In the latest edition of “Let Me Be Frank Productions’ The History of the World Around Here Filled with Songs That Apply (Maybe),” the story focuses on the Frosty Tip drive-in restaurant near Dyckesville in the ’60s. Love is in the air. Songs are in the air. Vats of hormones are in the air. Facts are in the air (somewhat). Four young (ahem) brothers who cook and serve at the burger-and-a-cone stand fall for three college/teen (ahem) girls from Chicago who are driving through on their way up to Door County. There’s plenty of fodder for a comical tale of young love laced with double-meaning lines and heart-felt feelings.

The show playing through Feb. 22 at the Meyer Theatre in downtown Green Bay is titled “Two and a Half Belgians.” The show has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the TV series “Two and a Half Men.” Not a shred of the TV series story is in this show. The title has a little bit to do with people of Belgian extraction who live around Dyckesville. The “Two and a Half” part has a lot to do with the imagination of creators Frank Hermans and Pat Hibbard. See, the (unseen and for-real) people who run the drive-in have nine kids – nine boys! – and they nickname them Number One to Number Nine to make it easier for them to keep track. Well, with Two, they didn’t want to keep calling him Number Two (anybody who’s seen a Frank’s show knows why). So – because he’s extra large – he became Number Two and a Half. Now you know exactly how the minds of Frank Hermans and Pat Hibbard work.

We now get to this:

Cast, etc.

Pat Hibbard as #1 and bass guitar, Frank Hermans as #2½, Tom Verbrick as #3; David Gusloff as #4, Amy Riemer as Amy Wrigley, Lisa Borley as Lisa Halas and Kasey Corrado as Kasey McCaskey. The band: Dennis Panneck, guitars; Tony Pilz, keyboards, and Adam Cain, drums. Sound: Tim Funk.

The set is a little Frosty Tip stand with serving tables with a big backdrop of water, a horizon and a cloud-filled sky that looks a lot like the bay of Green Bay up around Dyckesville/Frosty Tip parts. The scene fits the place, but Frank’s usual splashy/glitzy light shows are a bit hamstrung by the vista backdrop in this case.

A Frank’s story always is an excuse to fit songs of an era to what’s going on. This time, the ’60s serve up a rich array.

Songs

“A Day in the Life” (Beatles), David Gusloff, Frank Hermans, Pat Hibbard

“Red Rubber Ball,” Tom Verbrick

“Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing Baby,” Amy Riemer, David Gusloff

“Guy (Girl) from Ipanema,” Lisa Borley

“Kicks,” Pat Hibbard

“It Must Be Him,” Amy Riemer

Hawaii 5-0,” Band

“How Can I Be Sure,” Frank Hermans

“You Were on My Mind,” Kasey Corrado

“Rescue Me,” Amy Riemer, Kasey Corrado, Lisa Borley

Jackson,” Tom Verbrick, Kasey Corrado

“Mrs. Robinson,” David Gusloff, Frank Hermans

“Different Drum,” Lisa Borley

“It’s Love That Makes a Woman,” Amy Riemer

“This Girl’s in Love with You,” Kasey Corrado

“Eleanor Rigby,” David Gusloff

“Black is Black,” Frank Hermans

“Time is on My Side,” Lisa Borley

“Cinnamon,” Pat Hibbard

To me, the oddball in the offerings is “Jackson.” The characters who sing it aren’t married but they’re singing, “We got married in a fever hotter than a pepper sprout.” Sorry. Excuse me. I had a problem with the logic there. Oh, this is a Frank’s show. Sorry. (That’s supposed to be funny).

Many of the offerings are tremendous. The R&B soundscape of Amy Riemer is awesome. Lisa Borley soars. Frank Hermans has ringing zip. The Beatles songs are nailed, with “A Day in the Life” a fantastic opener by David Gusloff, Frank Hermans and Pat Hibbard. “Mrs. Robinson” becomes a comical, clowning playground for David Gusloff and Frank Hermans. There’s fun in Tom Verbrick’s “Red Rubber Ball” and stand-and-deliver sensitivity in Kasey Corrado’s “This Girl’s in Love with You.”

Among the bits of fun infused in the story is the connection of the girls to Da Bears. That sets up some Packers-Bears give and take.

This show (4½ stars out of 5) starts the 15th year for Let Me Be Frank Productions, which began as Frank’s Dinner Theatre at the former Sports Corner in De Pere. The troupe has its own take on musical theater. It seems to work.

THE VENUE: The Robert T. Meyer Theatre opened Feb. 27, 2002. It seats approximately 1,000. The building opened Feb. 14, 1930, as one of the palatial Fox movie houses. The theater’s interior aura was its saving grace toward the end of the 20th century, when the building was faced an uncertain fate. The architectural/decorative style is defined as Spanish Atmospheric. The auditorium is designed in the manner of a Moorish courtyard of old. The eclectic mix of architectural styles and colors carries throughout the lobbies. One of the Meyer Theatre’s remaining architectural cousins around the country is the Stefanie H. Weill Center for the Performing Arts in Sheboygan.

THE PEOPLE: Robert Meyer was president and chief executive officer of Tape Inc. of Green Bay. The theater took his name at the behest of his wife, Betty (Janet Elizabeth) Rose Meyer, whose financial contribution at a crucial time helped revitalize the building. The Rose family has a history of deep commitment to and involvement in the well being of Green Bay. Robert Meyer died in 1984, Betty Rose Meyer in 2008.

REST OF SEASON: “Beauty and the Beaver,” April 4-26; “Golden Bowl: Mixed Couples,” June 6-21; “Bay Beach Dance Party,” July 25-Aug. 23; “The Guernsey Boys: Behind the Music,” Sept. 19-Oct. 11; “A Frank’s Christmas,” Nov. 21-Dec. 27.

You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air features on WFRV between 6 and 8 a.m. Sundays. Check back on the Jan. 26 edition, which includes Amy Riemer explaining the troupe’s wireless headset microphone system. It’s at http://www.wearegreenbay.com/story/d/story/critic-at-large/38067/R397V51cu02z_-n8sCJAWQ.

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