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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Frank’s ‘Golden Bowl’ at times golden, indeed

Character singer Amy Riemer is sensational.
Amy Riemer
Amy Riemer

PHOTO: Frank Hermans, from left, Pat Hibbard, David Gusloff and Tom Verbrick are featured male performers in Let Me Be Frank Productions’ “Mixed Couples/Golden Bowl.” Let Me Be Frank’s photo

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – In the long and growing list of Let Me Be Frank Productions shows, it’s hard to name the good, better, best among them. There have been dozens since 2000, after all. The new “Mixed Couples/Golden Bowl” is an in an upper category (more than 4½ stars out of 5). The word “sensational” suits some scenes.

The show runs through June 21 at the Meyer Theatre in downtown Green Bay. Info: www.letmebefranks.com.

As all Frank’s shows, “Mixed Couples/Golden Bowl” is playful. The setup is it’s the late ’70s/early ’80s in Green Bay, with bowling and beer part of a good night out at the Golden Bowl bowling lanes. The show written by Frank Hermans and Pat Hibbard takes guy bowlers and girl bowlers and puts them together in a contest to win a date with prizes. It’s a fun story, with guy-girl hand wringing and the owner of the place (Tom Verbrick) percolating with cheesy double-meaning lines all the way through.

Back-to-back WOW scenes early on set the table for eagerness to see more of what’s in store.

***

Cast: Frank Hermans, Pat Hibbard, David Gusloff, Tom Verbrick, Kelly Gusloff, Kasey Corrado and Amy Riemer.

Band: Dennis Panneck, guitars; Adam Cain, drums; Tony Pilz, keyboards; and Pat Hibbard, bass.

Songs

Act I

Holiday Road” (Lindsey Buckingham), All

“I Was Made for Dancing” (Leif Garrett), David Gusloff

“Treat Me Right” (Pat Benatar), Amy Riemer

“Brandy” (Looking Glass), Pat Hibbard

“Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight” (ABBA), Kasey Corrado

“Take On Me” (A-ha), Frank Hermans

“Morning Train” (Sheena Easton), Kelly Gusloff

“Whip It” (Devo), Tom Verbrick, Frank Hermans, David Gusloff

“You Make Loving Fun” (Fleetwood Mac), Kasey Corrado

“Dreamgirls” (from Broadway show “Dreamgirls”), Kelly Gusloff, Kelly Gusloff, Amy Riemer

Act II

“Shake Your Groove Thing” (Peaches and Herb), All

“Power of Love” (Laura Branigan), Amy Riemer

“Edge of Seventeen” (Stevie Nicks), Kasey Corrado

“Endless Love” (Diana Ross and Lionel Richie) David Gusloff and Kelly Gusloff

“How Do You Do” (Mouth and McNeal), Frank Hermans and Amy Riemer

“Follow You” (Genesis), Frank Hermans

“Don’t Do Me Like That” (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers), Pat Hibbard

“I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love Tonight” (The Outfield), David Gusloff

MacArthur Park” (Donna Summer), Amy Riemer and All

***

The first powerhouse scene comes from David Gusloff. He bursts with fast, flashy, tricky dance moves in “I Was Made for Dancing.” The scene is a rush of joy/energy.

Amy Riemer is next in one of her killer roles. She plays a Goth girl – long black hair, heavy black eye shadow, black net stockings and arm wraps and black boots amid a dark-hearted demeanor from which she can never draw a smile. Never. In the role of the classic misfit, Amy Riemer builds meaning into every song. Her voice is dark-chocolate dense, often powerful, often searing. Her hands move artistically, akin to the way dancers from exotic lands pour symbolism and expression into the slightest movement of fingers, a hand, a wrist, an arm. The motions are part of her portrait-painting. If you close your eyes to take in the wonder of Amy Riemer’s singing, you miss the full picture of what she does. Her long notes maintain brilliance, and there are lots of them throughout the night. “Treat Me Right” is Amy Riemer’s first excursion in the show into exploring how a song can shape a character – and how a character can shape a song. Shhh, don’t tell anybody, but these Frank’s shows are Amy Riemer’s playground for taking popular songs and interpreting new life and fullness into them – sometimes beyond the capabilities or possibilities of the original artist.

All the singers have characters to build songs around. Kasey Corrado and Pat Hibbard are a couple of goofuses. David Gusloff and Kelly Gusloff are sweet lovebirds. Frank Hermans is the big-headed jock type, with he and the ever-dark Amy Riemer matched up for oil-and-water tension. Tom Verbrick is a world-weary type – and springboard to a vamp of the goofy-hatted Devo antics in “Whip It.”

Picking out a few other juicy moments:

- The Gusloffs (husband and wife)* in the warm and gushy romance of “Endless Love.”

- Frank Hermans and Amy Riemer (husband and wife) in the give and take of “How Do You Do,” spiced with nuances you may have never before knew existed.

- Solos (often laced with knowing backup singing) by Kasey Corrado in “Edge of Seventeen,” Frank Hermans with a boosted falsetto in “Take On Me,” Kelly Gusloff in “Morning Train.”

“Dreamgirls” is a huge number. It’s Amy Riemer Land again. She’s the vocal coach of the outfit, and she develops “Dreamgirls” into a song-and-dance showcase that highlights the strengths – equality – of her voice and Kelly Gusloff and Kasey Corrado’s voices. Blend the three together, stir in some motion, and you have quite a sight-and-soundscape.

Topping everything off is the finale, “MacArthur Park,” with Amy Riemer at the center of the entourage. The effect is like that a well-built house. Amy Riemer is in one room doing her exploring thing, the other singers are in another room doing their fun-and-games thing and the band is in another room applying a spectrum of colors. Together with a light show, this house that Frank’s built is spectacular.

* David Gusloff proposed to Kelly Haddad Gusloff on stage at the Meyer during a Frank’s show in 2010. They married and today have a son, Vincent Thomas.

REST OF SEASON: “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.

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.

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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