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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Frank’s Family Feud’ stoked with satire, songs in Green Bay

Critic At Large

Let Me Be Frank Productions

The company for “Frank’s Family Feud,” standing from left, Zach Hibbard, Pat Hibbard, Frank Hermans, Tom Verbrick and Dennis Panneck, and seated, from left, Sarah Galati, Lisa Borley, Amy Riemer, Blake Matthews Hermans, Adam Cain and Tony Pilz. (Sue Pilz Photography)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – The first joke is the TV show “Family Feud” has come to hold an audition show at Van Abel’s of Hollandtown (a real dining/banquet establishment east of Kaukauna).

The second joke is everybody seems to named Van.

The third joke is the audition emcee is Steve Harvae, not to be confused with Steve Harvey, who is seen on air.

The next joke is the show lives up to its title because the auditioning families really are feuding. The husband of one and the wife of the other are divorced from one another. There’s mud-slinging galore – comical in the case of “Frank’s Family Feud,” the newest creation of Let Me Be Frank Productions show troupe of Green Bay.

Performances started Friday night at the Meyer Theatre in downtown Green Bay. The show’s schedule includes run-outs to Kiel, Manitowoc and Marinette.

Yes, as the headline says, the show is stoked with satire and songs. But it’s beyond simple.

Frank’s shows are showcases for singing. That’s also the case with “Frank’s Family Feud,” with a difference: In keeping with what’s happening in the story, the song titles and/or topics deal with games or fighting. That means some songs are by acts that wouldn’t ordinarily be heard in a Frank’s show – Amy Winehouse; Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Peter Gabriel and other dealers in dark.

This musical landscape of choice happens to feature the lead guitar a lot, so the gifted Dennis Panneck is featured in rich display after rich display.

The story requires the emcee to play a major role, so the talents of Tom Verbrick get a full workout in end-to-end dealings with the nutcases of the two families while going through the process of all the workings of the “Family Feud” game. Tom Verbrick is on stage the entire time in a kind of high-wire comedy act. He’s terrific as Steve Harvae hangs on the cliff of desperation but still mostly manages to have some control. The chiropractor contestant is a problem, though. Steve Harvae is caught up in a series of agonizing chiropractic crunches before wincing his way to then next contestant. Hilarious stuff.

Characters always drive Frank’s stories. This show teases the peculiar types that show up on TV show. Obnoxious-icity fills “Frank’s Family Feud.”

Prime is Sarah Galati as a self-centered social media influencer. She comically defines the sheer egotism of what an influencer is. The byplay Sarah Galati has with her stage mother, Lisa Borley, also is spectacularly out there.

And then there is the character portrayed by Pat Hibbard, a troupe mainstay who wrote this show. Pat Hibbard wrote himself as a veteran combat infantry sergeant with a chip on his shoulder and many chips out of his psyche. He glares. Loud noises make in flinch as if wounded. His brain seems to be a dark, dank, dangerous place – yet a weirdly comical haunt.

Pat Hibbard also wrote this scenario for Zach Hibbard (his son) and Blake Matthews Hermans (Frank Hermans’ son): They are twins and believe they are such, though everybody knows they don’t look anything alike. In the story, they became twins because one is slow and was held back in school a couple of years and is now in the same grade as his brother… making them twins. That’s Pat Hibbard cosmic humor.

With the singers carrying around these characters, the songs have foundations for expression of meaning. Along the way are the soaring beauty of Lisa Borley, the flowing color of Amy Riemer, the heartbreak tones of Sarah Galati, the soul sensibility of Blake Matthews Hermans, the rock feel of Zach Hibbard, the heady rockism of Pat Hibbard and the landscape range of Frank Hermans. In “Wicked Game,” Frank Hermans takes on a kind of haunting wail in the lyric.

The band sets this entourage off into all sorts of realms. Splashiest are the showcases that end the first act and start the second as the troupe explodes in song and dance behind Amy Riemer in “Fighter” and Frank Hermans in “Play That Funky Music,” respectively. Because of game/fight effect in the song choices, many (like “Fighter”) are not necessarily entertaining hits (like “Play That Funky Music”). Take “Fighter” or “Mind Games” or “Love is a Losing Game.” Imagine a glass a grapefruit juice. Take a sip. Your head snaps. That’s them.

“Frank’s Family Feud” is a different Frank’s show. But they’re all different. This is the 127th Frank’s show. One hundred and twenty-seven… all large scale, something new with familiar things, often with local touches, always brimming with colorful, live band and vocal displays, always anything but simple. Applause, applause. No joke.

***

Cast:

Steve Harvae – Tom Verbrick

Frank Vander Hermans – Frank Hermans

Amy Vander Hermans – Amy Riemer

Blake Vander Hermans – Blake Matthews Hermans

Lisa Van Hibbard – Lisa Borley

Pat Van Hibbard – Pat Hibbard

Sarah Van Hibbard – Sarah Galati

Zach Van Hibbard – Zach Hibbard

Band and support: Dennis Panneck (guitars), Pat Hibbard (bass), Tony Pilz (keyboards) and Adam Cain (drums), supported by Ross Loining (lights) and Kelly Klaus (sound)

Running time: Two hours, 12 minutes

Remaining performances:

– Green Bay, Meyer Theatre (meyertheatre.org): 7:30 p.m. Sept. 18, 23, 24; 1 and 7:30 p.m. Sept. 25, 30; 7:30 p.m. Oct. 1, 2, 7, 8 and 9. Meyer Theatre safety protocols and regulations are at https://meyertheatre.org/keeping-you-safe/.

– Manitowoc, Capitol Civic Centre (cccshows.org): 7:30 p.m. Oct. 9.

– Marinette, Activity Hall at REC Center (marinette.recdesk.com): 7 p.m. Oct. 15.

– Kiel, Kiel Performing Arts Center (Facebook): 7 p.m. Oct. 23.

***

Song selections

Act I

“Karn Evil 9 1st Impression” (Emerson, Lake & Palmer) – Pat Hibbard, all

“I Lost on Jeopardy” (“Weird Al” Yankovic) – Tom Verbrick

“The Game of Love” (Wayne Fontana & The Mindbenders) CFrank Hermans

“The Game of Love” (Michelle Branch featuring Santana) – Amy Riemer

“Show Me the Way” (Styx) – Blake Matthews Hermans

“Fight Song” (Rachel Platten) – Lisa Borley

“Games Without Frontiers” (Peter Gabriel) – Pat Hibbard

“Love is a Losing Game” (Amy Winehouse) – Sarah Galati

“Games People Play” (Alan Parsons Project) – Zach Hibbard

“Wicked Game” (Chris Isaak) – Frank Hermans

“Fighter” (Christina Aguilera) – Amy Riemer, all

Act II

“Play That Funky Music” (Wild Cherry) – Frank Hermans, all

“Play the Game” (Queen) – Lisa Borley, all

“Mind Games” (John Lennon) – Pat Hibbard

“Foolish Games” (Jewel) – Sarah Galati

“Even the Losers” (Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) – Zach Hibbard

“Don’t Fight It” (Kenny Loggins & Steve Perry) – Blake Matthews Hermans, Zach Hibbard

“Show Me the Way” (Peter Frampton) – Amy Riemer

“Games People Play” (The Spinners) – Blake Matthews Hermans

“Play the Game Tonight” (Kansas) – Sarah Galati

“We Are Family” (Sister Sledge) – Lisa Borley, all

***

NEXT: “A Frank’s Christmas,” Dec. 3-23.

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.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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