Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Frank’s chemistry fuels ‘Bay Beach Dance Party’

Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Frank’s chemistry fuels ‘Bay Beach Dance Party’

Newcomers fit right in with the troupe’s flow.

PHOTO: In the cast of Let Me Be Frank Productions’ “Bay Beach Dance Party” are, front row from left, Frank Hermans, Meghan Linehan, Amy Riemer, Hope Klessig, Tom Verbrick, Pat Hibbard, Lisa Borley, Kasey Corrado, Kristin Brockman and David Gusloff, and back row from left, Jeff Arnold, Adam Cain and Dennis Panneck. Let Me Be Frank Productions photo

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Fun. Bay Beach Amusement Park on the shore of Green Bay is fun. Fun, too, is “Bay Beach Dance Party.” The new Let Me Be Frank Productions show (4½ stars out of 5) re-visits Bay Beach Park’s pavilion of the ’50s and ’60s, when high schoolers gathered on Wednesdays for dances. Songs of the era spring to life in performances that continue through Aug. 23 at the Meyer Theatre in downtown Green Bay. Info: www.letmebefranks.com.

This show features a lot of dancing, a lot of good singing (as usual) and youthful newcomers who fit right in with all the singing and dancing and joshing around like this is their usual thing to do.

***

Creative: Co-writers – Frank Hermans, Pat Hibbard; vocal coach – Amy Riemer; band leader – Dennis Panneck.

Cast: Lisa Borley, Kristin Brockman, Kasey Corrado, David Gusloff, Frank Hermans, Pat Hibbard, Hope Klessig, Meghan Linehan, Amy Riemer, Tom Verbrick.

Band: Jeff Arnold, keyboards; Adam Cain, drums; Pat Hibbard, bass; Dennis Panneck, guitar.

Songs

Act I

“Downtown” – Lisa Borley, female cast

“Dream a Little Dream of Me” – Kasey Corrado

“Tell Her No” – David Gusloff

“Baby It’s You” – Amy Riemer

“Oh, What a Night” – Frank Hermans

“Side-Winder” – Band instrumental

“Everybody Loves a Clown” – Pat Hibbard

“To Sir With Love” – Hope Klessig

“Guitarzan” – Tom Verbrick

“Mr. Sandman” – Lisa Borley, Kristin Brockman, Kasey Corrado, Hope Klessig, Meghan Linehan, Amy Riemer

Act II

“Telstar” – Kristin Brockman dance, band instrumental

“(Your Love is Like a) See Saw” – Amy Riemer

“Wonderful Summer” – Lisa Borley

“Along Came Mary” – David Gusloff

“Good Luck Charm” – Frank Hermans

“Sunday Will Never Be the Same” – Kasey Corrado

“I Can’t Let Go” – Amy Riemer

“Where the Action Is” – Pat Hibbard

***

This show is chatty (comically so) as it concentrates on developing the characters (to set up situations for songs). In a sense, the story is a longggggggggggg setup for “Along Came Mary.” It seems there once was a Mary who got between the glee club directors for St. Joseph Academy and Luxemburg-Casco High School and created animosity. Now the school’s vocal groups and their directors face off in some kind of made-up competition at Bay Beach with the band The Vibratones (from real life). It’s all very complex, but the push and shove are entertaining along the way.

More than other Frank’s shows, this one is about dancing and movement. It starts at the top of each of the two acts. First, Lisa Borley fires up “Downtown” as rest of the female cast nips through synchronized action that’s full of vitality. To open Act II, Kristin Brockman glides through an impressionistic dance as the band plays the historic+ “Telstar.” In between, dance spices many songs as an add-on feature. As Frank Hermans sings one song, seated dancers play with the rhythms. As Amy Riemer sings another song, she and her backup singers gracefully add flowing arm movements.

In some songs, there is no dancing as the focus is on the singer. One example: Kasey Corrado, seated, pouring the soft side of her voice into the dreamy “Dream a Little Dream of Me.” Very nice.

Many of the songs in the show are from the light side of the ’60s era. And then Amy Riemer comes along with powerhouse R&B songs, and the earth moves. A totally different, darker texture.

Among the characters, Tom Verbrick’s icky guy who likes/loves/desires/craves all the girls is the corker. Tommy wears a poke-in-the-eye sweater that his mother made for him; it was supposed to be a hot pad “but it got out of hand.”

As the dueling choir directors, Frank Hermans and David Gusloff spark big laughs in a “fight” scene. Along with everything else, Frank Hermans can do comedic reaction, too.

This production has a bit of alchemy – that mystical chemistry by which various seemingly unlikely ingredients are put together and with some hocus pocus gold is produced. In the case of “Bay Beach Dance Party,” the ingredients are college student Meghan Linehan, 16-year-old Hope Klessig and dancer Kristin Brockman and – presto – the show has a fresh feel. Frank Hermans, Amy Riemer and the company set them up to succeed, and the girls look and sound more than good. The vocal chemistry is most evident at the end of Act I in the 1954 No. 1 hit song by The Chordettes of Sheboygan, “Mr. Sandman.” Color and harmony are fused by the singers, and the sound is sensational. You’d never guess the song is 60 years old. Wonderful. Fabulous. Can’t say enough how good the song comes off.

+ The tune captures history: Telstar was a communication satellite that amazingly brought live pictures from anywhere in the world for the first time, and the song embraces the wonder. “Telstar” was a No. 1 hit in the United States and United Kingdom. The satellite and the tune happened in 1962, when essentially communications started to change for so many people in so many ways.

REST OF SEASON: “The Guernsey Boys: Behind the Music,” Sept. 19-Oct. 11; “A Frank’s Christmas,” Nov. 21-Dec. 27.

THE VENUE: Stop and look around the place. It’s an eye full. 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. It’s picturesque. 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.

You may email me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air features on WFRV between 6 and 8 a.m. Sundays.

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