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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Live ‘A Frank’s Christmas’ blends music, flash, message

Critic At Large

Let Me Be Frank Productions

Scene from Let Me Be Frank Productions’ “A Frank’s Christmas” Saturday, Nov. 28. (Warren Gerds)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Going to the latest Frank’s show could make you a better person.

Seriously.

It’s a very different Frank’s show in this very different time – entertaining and filled with color and zest and vocal/visual showcases and comedy as usual – but different.

A main difference is Let Me Be Frank Productions’ “A Frank’s Christmas” is one of the few large, full-scale, live, in-person shows around due to the coronavirus COVID19 pandemic. Eighteen more performances continue to Dec. 23 at the Meyer Theatre in downtown Green Bay.

The “better person” mention has to do with the key character in the story and what his job is.

Frank Frost is a diversity trainer. Mrs. Claus has hired him to help get Santa with being “the best version of ourselves” – what to say, how say it, how to treat others, ways to explore “core values” and ways to “include others.”

Troupe namesake Frank Hermans portrays Frank Frost. Like his relative Jack Frost, “a nephew on a cousin’s side,” Frank Frost freezes things on touch. Frank Frost is unlike any characters Frank Hermans has played in 110-plus productions. Frank Hermans’ jet-black dyed head hair is replaced by his natural gray/white, shaped into a spike, and he has a natural speckled white-and-black beard. His ears are made to look like an elf’s. His suit is a poke-in-the-eye thing awash with red and white and green, as though he’s a walking Christmas tree. He speaks like a know-it-all with a blurry patter. Frank Frost is a fast-talking, double-talking, shifty, smarmy guy who has a hard time following the things he is trying to pass on to others as a diversity coach. For instance, Frank Frost constantly fights his natural instincts with the presence of sweet Amy Angel, one of Santa’s helpers.

Let Me Be Frank Productions goes a long way to create characters for singers to climb into songs, but becoming this character seems to have been a trek.

Skipping to the end, the last song is Frank Frost singing “All I Want for Christmas is You.” On the surface, it’s a person-to-person love song. Deeper in, it reminds me of what ’70s star Bobby Vinton meant in his hit “My Melody of Love” – his love for his audience. Perhaps Frank Hermans is in that ballpark with the song, though the “you” may include those around him, too. That includes an add-on – his son, Harrison Hermans, age 9, opening the show playing guitar and singing a song he, Frank Hermans, wrote.

And, yes, the show is entertaining, convoluted story aside.

The cast of Let Me Be Frank Productions’ “A Frank’s Christmas” is, from left, Frank Hermans, Tom Verbrick, Pat Hibbard, Dennis Panneck, Andrew Klaus, Tony Pilz, Sarah Galati, Lisa Borley and Amy Riemer. (Sue Pilz Photography)

Amy Riemer envelops songs, in “Ribbons and Bows” unleashing her big voice climbing the scale.

Lisa Borley is featured in sacred songs, exploring heights in “O Holy Night” and “Angels We Have Heard on High” with full backing by the other singers.

Sarah Galati climbs into the heart and head of Joni Mitchell in “River,” which flows from its start, “It’s coming on Christmas.” The song is from 1971, well before Sarah Galati was born, and she refuels its meanings.

Pat Hibbard leaps into the vocal powerhouse of the rockin’ blues of “Santa Claus is Back in Town.” And he dives into “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” just singing, not holding a bass like usual – though Saturday he held the detached arm of a ventriloquist’s doll. And he teamed with Frank Hermans to write the heady/humorous stuff in the show, including himself as a kind of earthy, street-smart, slimmed-down Santa.

Tom Verbrick, along with being a dim-witted Santa’s helper visits vintage popular songs from crooners, Gene Autry’s “Up on the House Top” and Perry Como’s “No Place Like Home for the Holidays.”

The band supports like crazy, as usual, and also gets to leap into a Trans-Siberian Orchestra piece in a finesse and power display complete with a light show.

Following Saturday’s performance, Frank Hermans thanked the audience and mentioned “we are down 80 percent” and how the entertainment industry is hurting. He also said he had COVID-19 a month ago and his wife, Amy Riemer, “Saved my life.” All I want for Christmas is you, indeed.

And, yes, the show is entertaining.

***

Company

Frank Hermans (Frank Frost, diversity trainer)

Pat Hibbard (Santa),

Amy Riemer (Santa’s helper)

Lisa Borley (Santa’s helper)

Tom Verbrick (Santa’s helper)

Sarah Galati (Mrs. Claus)

Dennis Panneck (guitars)

Tony Pilz (keyboards)

Andrew Klaus (drums)

Running time: Two hours, 16 minutes

Remaining performances: 1 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 3; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 4, 5, 9; 1 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 10; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 11, 12; 1 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17; 7:30 p.m. Dec. 18; 1 and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 19; and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20, 21, 22 and 23

Info: meyertheatre.org.

***

Songs

Prelude

“Happy Christmas” (Frank Hermans) – Harrison Hermans

Act I

“Step into Christmas” (Elton John) – Frank Hermans

“Sugar and Booze” (Ana Gasteyer) – Sarah Galati

“Santa Claus is Back in Town” (“Christmas Chronicles”/(Kurt Russell) – Pat Hibbard

“Ribbons and Bows” (Kacey Musgraves) – Amy Riemer

“Angels We Have Heard on High” (Lea Michele) – Lisa Borley

“Up on the House Top” (Gene Autry) – Tom Verbrick

“Christmas Kisses” (Serena Ryder) – Sarah Galati

“Let There Be Peace on Earth” (Vince Gill) – Frank Hermans

“Gee Whiz It’s Christmas” (Diane Birch) – Amy Riemer

Act II

“Boughs of Holly – Deck the Halls” (Trans-Siberian Orchestra) – Band: Pat Hibbard (bass). Andrew Klaus (drums), Dennis Panneck (guitar), Tony Pilz (keyboards)

“Santa Claus is Coming to Town” (Michael Bublé) – Pat Hibbard

“O Holy Night” (Lea Michele) – Lisa Borley

“The Coldest Night of the Year” (Molly Burch and Jesse Woods) – Amy Riemer and Frank Hermans

“River” (Joni Mitchell) – Sarah Galati

“Winter’s Dream” (Kelly Clarkson) – Lisa Borley

“No Place Like Home for the Holidays” (Perry Como) – Tom Verbrick

“Love Came Down at Christmas” (Shawn Colvi) – Amy Riemer

“All I Want for Christmas is You” (Marc Martel) – Frank Hermans

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