GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV)
rhythm and rhyme
both rich and rank
come from Frank
who has a yen
for his own Hamilten…
Err, “Hamilton” – you know, the super-popular musical.
No, the latest Let Me Be Frank Productions show is not a straight-on rip-off of “Hamilton.” The Green Bay show troupe is just having fun with it.
The performers wear clothes of the American Revolutionary War period, as in “Hamilton,” but they sing songs not from the hit musical but from the 1960s charts.
Sometimes rap is let loose, like in the real “Hamilton.”
The title character speaks in rhyme somewhat like my tease above.
Let Me Be Frank Productions’ title is not “Hamilton: An American Musical” (the official one) but “Hamilton Ltd. The Musical.”
Alexander Hamilton is not to be found.
Hamilton, a remarkably inventive business in Two Rivers, is. The new CEO there is George Hamilton (the name of a popular actor in the 1960s), portrayed by the troupe’s namesake, Frank Hermans.
Frank Hermans and writing/directing partner Pat Hibbard dreamed up a lot of the new stuff, including their usual dose of fractured history that fits into a story that mashes together all sorts of what-ifs.
What if the company based in Two Rivers known for leading the way in so many ways repurposed to selling a pot product on the sly? That’s the Hermans-Hibbard way of bringing into the story references to the current legalization of marijuana as something visionary because the show is set in 1968.
If this is all too complex, just listen to the singing.
Heard is Lisa Borley going toe toe to with Barbra Streisand’s version of “People” – slow, careful, colorful, ringing, brilliant.
Heard is Amy Riemer in a soul version of The Beatles’ “Come Together,” embracing the style, flowing with its infectious flow and letting loose at the end an amazing long and pure note.
Heard is Sarah Hibbard in the lead of “Love Child,” not imitating Diana Ross but in her own style a layer lower in sound and fullness. Lisa Borley and Amy Riemer become The Supremes, not in slinky outfits of the ’60s but in hoop skirts from around 1776.
Heard is Blake Hermans, singing songs that were popular well before he was born and making them is own with a singing style of a unique texture. The Rascals might be jealous of the supple groove he puts to their hit “It’s a Beautiful Morning.”
Frank Hermans adds pop heat, Pat Hibbard rock zest, Paul Evansen pop drive and Tom Verbrick novelty spirit in song.
They all toy with their distinctive characters and enjoy the spotlight singing songs that usually have been heard by millions.
Fueling everything are Dennis Panneck on guitars, Tony Pilz on keyboards and Adam Cain on drums – musicians who can play anything under the sun in the pop realm across many years.
All along, the singers play with their characters, most of whom are Hamilton employees gathered for a costumed Fourth of July celebration. The punch gets spiked, so the level of bizarre goes up by leaps and bounds.
“Hamilton, Ltd. The Music” is especially ambitious in two ways.
One. As the regal-sounding George Hamilton, Frank Hermans speaks in rhyme. Twice that leads into bursts of rap with individual players picking up the drum-backed voice-beat. That’s hard stuff to create.
Two. Adding to the there-has-been-no-Frank’s-show-like-this aura is the costuming for the women. Look at the photo above. The dresses are made by Amy Riemer (Frank Hermans said so on stage), and they are complex and of character of their own.
Thursday’s performance included moments that seemed to pop out of nowhere, though that is par for the course for the company. Paul Evansen seemed to flub a word, and an improv bit arose that played with the fact that Pat Hibbard’s wig kept creeping back on his bald head. Suddenly, folks were doing a riff on eggs. Egg head, get it?
In all, this is another Let Me Be Frank Productions show among 100+ unlike other shows, but they all are unlike the others.
Side note: As a journalist, I get a kick out of this about Hamilton from the 1800s: The company virtually monopolized the wood-type industry, and shock newspaper headlines that fed “yellow journalism” – like at the time of the Spanish-American War – in a way had roots in what was made in li’l ol’ Two Rivers, Wisconsin.
Frank Hermans (George Hamilton)
Pat Hibbard (Mayor)
Band: Dennis Panneck, guitars; Pat Hibbard, bass; Tony Pilz, keyboards; Adam Cain, drums
Running time: One hour, 55 minutes
Remaining performances: Meyer Theatre in Green Bay (with a new starting time for evening performances) at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 7, 8, 13, 14; 1 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 20; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 21; and 1 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22. Info: meyertheatre.org. Capitol Civic Centre in Manitowoc at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 12. Info: cccshows.org
“Aquarius” (The 5th Dimension) – Lisa Borley, all
Rap led by Frank Hermans
“Baby, Now That I’ve Found You” (The Foundations) – Frank Hermans
“I Second That Emotion” (Smokey Robinson) – Amy Riemer
“Angel of the Morning” (Merrilee Rush & The Turnabouts) – Sarah Hibbard
“Itchycoo Park” (Small Faces) – Pat Hibbard
“1, 2, 3, Red Light” (1910 Fruitgum Company) – Frank Hermans
“Pictures of Matchstick Men” (The Status Quo) – Paul Evansen
“It’s a Beautiful Morning” (The Rascals) – Blake Hermans
“People” (Barbra Streisand) – Lisa Borley
“Hello, I Love You” (The Doors) – Tom Verbrick
“Come Together” (The Beatles, Candice Glover version) – Amy Riemer, band
“Born to Be Wild” (Mars Bonfire) – Pat Hibbard, band
“Do You Know the Way to San Jose (Dionne Warwick) – Sarah Hibbard
“People Got to be Free” (The Rascals) – Paul Evansen
Rap led by Frank Hermans
“Lady Willpower” (Gary Puckett and the Union Gap) – Frank Hermans
“Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day” (Stevie Wonder) – Blake Hermans
“(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone” (Aretha Franklin) – Lisa Borley
“Love Child” (Supremes) – Sarah Hibbard with Lisa Borley and Amy Riemer
“Marry Me, Bill” (5th Dimension) – Amy Riemer, all
NEXT: “Menoma Mia!” April 3-25.
THE VENUE: Stop and look around the place. Meyer Theatre’s auditorium is an eye full. Located at 117 S. Washington St. in downtown Green Bay, the Meyer is one of the state’s colorful historic theaters. In its current form, the Robert T. Meyer Theatre opened Feb. 27, 2002. It seats approximately 1,000. The building dates back much farther. It opened Feb. 14, 1930, as one of the palatial Fox movie houses. The place is 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.
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.