GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV)
Some shows feel just right.
That was the sense Thursday night for “Girls on Thin Ice,” a new creation presented in Backstage at the Meyer.
The singer/actors, band and idea hit a stride at the start and never quit.
The offering of Let Me Be Frank Productions Dinner Theatre is sensational.
Considering the wave of concerns caused by the global coronavirus pandemic, it should be noted the capacity of the performance space is 130 persons. The stated recommended crowd limit is 250.
Written and directed by Frank Hermans, “Girls on Thin Ice” imagines an audition for the 1989 cast of a college show group. A new member happens to have CIA connections. The story of what happened in 1989 is told through her memory in a flashback.
In one clever touch in the midst of her storytelling, there is a rewind of a flashback scene.
The story is an excuse to unleash the singing of five performers – all really good at what they do – in hit songs by female stars of the eighties. Setting up and/or supporting their lustrous singing is a nimble four-man band.
Lisa Borley, Kelly Gusloff, Sarah Hibbard, Amy Riemer and Kasey Schumacher sing, dance and act. Each solos. All support one another in backup singing and story touches. Their collaboration is like five female musketeers – one for all and all for one.
Pick any song from the playlist below, and something more than good is going on.
Perhaps the best example of the musketeers’ expertise is “How Will I Know.” The band stops, and the singers slip into an a cappella rhythmic groove as a whole led by Kelly Gusloff in lead. The song is like the five saying, “You wanna know how good we are? This is it.”
The backstory of this production is touched on lightly in this show’s story.
The college troupe that’s auditioning is from real life – the Swinging Knights of St. Norbert College. The group’s shows were popular for three decades before it ceased. After a few years, Knights on Broadway picked up the action.
Four of the singers are products of these troupes – Amy Riemer of the Swinging Knights and Sarah Hibbard, Kelly Haddad Gusloff and Kasey Corrado Schumacher of Knights on Broadway. Lisa Borley is a product of University of Wisconsin-Green Bay’s Vocal Jazz Ensemble.
A sample Swinging Knights song lineup from 1977: “Sentimental Journey” (from the 1940s) highlights from “A Chorus Line” and “Grease,” “Evergreen” (from the movie “A Star is Born” of 1971), “When I’m 64” (Beatles), “Reviewing the Situation” (“The King and I”), “Neither One of Us Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye” (from the top 10 chart) and “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” (top 10).
With “Girls on Thin Ice,” it’s history, schmistory: The Swinging Knights never would have sung such a concentration of chart hits. Not that anyone minds or cares. “Girls on Thin Ice” is original and loaded with popular music artistry.
Band: Heath Hermans, drums; Pat Hibbard, bass; Dennis Panneck, guitars; Tony Pilz, keyboard
Running time: One hour, 40 minutes
Remaining performances: March 13-15, 6 p.m. dinner, 7 p.m. show
“I’m Every Woman” (Chaka Khan) – Lisa Borley, all
“Home Sweet Home” (Motley Crue/Carrie Underwood cover) – Kasey Schumacher
“Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (Cyndi Lauper) – Amy Riemer
“Black Velvet” (Alannah Myles) – Sarah Hibbard
“How Will I Know” (Whitney Houston/Glee cover) – Kelly Gusloff
“Edge of Seventeen” (Stevie Nicks) – Kasey Schumacher
“Heaven is a Place on Earth” (Belinda Carlisle) – Kelly Gusloff
“I’m So Excited” (The Pointer Sisters) – Sarah Hibbard
“Saving All My Love for You” (Whitney Houston) – Lisa Borley
“Gloria” (Laura Branigan) – Amy Riemer
“True Colors” (Cyndi Lauper) – Sarah Hibbard
“Fast Car” (Tracy Chapman/Jess Moskaluke cover) – Kasey Schumacher
“What’s Love Got to Do with It” (Tina Turner) – Lisa Borley
“You Better Run” (Pat Benatar) – Amy Riemer
“Fame” (Irene Cara) – Kelly Gusloff
“Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves” (Eurythmics, Aretha Franklin) – All
THE VENUE: Located at 101 S. Washington St. adjacent to the Meyer Theatre, Backstage at the Meyer is a multipurpose space for scheduled gatherings and performances. Capacity is 200, or 130 in the case of “Girls on Thin Ice.” In the rectangular space, a stage on the north side is raised about three feet above the wood floor. To the west, between brick sections, is a set of six large windows that are almost floor to ceiling. Black, tie-back curtains adorn the windows. The ceiling includes steel beams painted white, black drop-tiles, lighting fixtures for stage shows and house lighting. A white wall to the east includes large black-and-white photos of the Meyer Theatre auditorium and backstage views. On the south wall is a large black-and-white photo of the auditorium. In the southeast section of the space is a large bar. General aura: Loft modern. A photo in the lobby tells of the history of the corner in 1957: Camera Corner on the corner of Washington and Walnut streets, a budget movie theater, the Blue Room restaurant, a beauty school and the Bay Theatre.