GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV)
After 20 years, it’s pretty clear that Let Me Be Frank Productions is something else.
The Green Bay show troupe’s 20th anniversary show “Frank Fontaine’s Bandstand USA” is something else again.
The show is stacked with ‘50s/’60s hit songs, flashy singing, lively dancing, sassy humor, send-up comedy, special guests and a whole lotta life.
It’s entertaining, in the way that Let Me Be Frank Productions entertains: Tell a story that is kinda/sorta based in fact and unleash songs.
This show has a double-edged story. It imagines a star showman who is flush with glitz and vanity. First, he puts on a pop-hit show in his home turf TV studio. Then, in the second half, he hits the road for remote show (truly so) in Escanaba, Michigan.
Five of the cast members play two sets of characters. They go from teasing types in the first half to super lampooners in the second. Escanaba is poked fun at up and down, backward and forward… and then some.
Stuffed in are made-up commercials, two of which are loaded with double entendre meanings.
Singing is at the fore, as usual, but this show almost always is in motion with dancing. Some of that dancing is lampoon, too.
Here is a glimpse of how this went down on opening night Friday: At the end, namesake Frank Hermans has introduced his cast and guests and creative partner Pat Hibbard has introduced Frank Hermans. They shake hands, which they seldom do on stage in their hundred-something productions spanning thousands of performances. It’s moment of appreciation of one another. Soon, after some bows, the curtains start to close but the audience is still in the midst of a blossoming standing ovation. Frank Hermans calls for the curtains to fully open again. That happens, and all on stage savor the moment.
This production is packed with stories. Some:
+ The first time “Frank Fontaine’s Bandstand USA” was done was 2004. The troupe was Frank’s Dinner Theatre Players then. The location was the SC Grand Banquet and Convention Center in Lawrence.
+ Performances along the way in this production will have various performers step in for guest appearances. Friday, two were met with big responses – Suzan Teofilo Sherman for a lustrous “Where the Boys Are” and Dan Rafferty for a rip-roaring “Great Balls of Fire.”
+ Two past regulars have returned for the full run. Each has points of fascination. Jennifer Kanzelberger Polara is commuting from Arizona (what?) to be in this production. She was in the original. This is what I wrote in the Green Bay Press-Gazette: “Jenny Kanzelberger continually shines. Her voice suits such tunes as “Stupid Cupid,” “I Like Bread and Butter” and “He’s So Fine.” Her choreography keeps the show bouncing along. Kanzelberger’s joy in performance is infectious. She’s 17.” Ditto today (plus 15 years, a law degree and a husband). Paul Evansen is doubling as anchor/reporter on WFRV-TV and stage performer (singing, dancing, comical guy). The humor is sometimes things he could never get away with on the air, notably as commercial pitchman as part owner of Delta County Taxidermy, a Yooper-driven bit that has enough double meanings to stuff a bear with.
+ Speaking of double meanings, Frank Hermans is a pitchman for Niagara, a starch that has the same properties as a product with a similar name. That routine was in the 2004 production, as was Hermans. From the 2004 review: “Hermans has the look and manner of a star – beleaguered as he is in this case – and it’s no secret Hermans can sing just about any song he wishes and deliver the goods with flair.” Ditto in this production.
+ Also still at it from the 2004 production are Pat Hibbard and Tom Verbrick. Pat Hibbard, character/bass player, again is featured in “Runaround Sue” and “Devil with the Blue Dress.” Tom Verbrick again “is strong in support in song and dance. His second-act look – a hunched up nerd in horn-rimmed glasses – is priceless.” That’s because in “You’re Sixteen” he goes from singing in lisping, spitting ways to crooning handsomely.
+ Everybody plays characters. Let Me Be Frank Productions shows don’t just crank out songs. The singers are somebody. Lisa Borley and Amy Riemer are oh so good at singing in colorful ways, plus they have extra zip in portraits of comical women. This time, Lisa Borley is both a Hollywood la-de-dahhh teen and a Yooper girl, boots and dee’s and do’s and all. Amy Riemer plays a ditzy TV assistant, stacked beehive hair, glam dress and malaprop humor and all. Michael O’Malley sends up the persona of a TV show gofer, more than a bit fey.
+ Song after song is infectious, with the band feeding that. What happens out front is sparked by the skills of Dennis Panneck, Tony Pilz, Adam Cain and Pat Hibbard.
+ The run of this production promises to have many colorful moments as more talent joins for guest appearances. Notably, co-founder Joe Kiedinger will be aboard Oct. 3 and 4.
Frank Fontaine – Frank Hermans
Pat Pierce and Pat La Pierre – Pat Hibbard
“Rate it Girl” Amy Angel – Amy Riemer
Jennifer Jansen and Jenny Jeez Em Crums – Jennifer Kanzelberger Polera
Paul Pencil Neck and Paul Leo Vaccine – Paul Evansen
Tommy Tonsils and Tom Spitz – Tom Verbrick
Lisa Lovely and Lisa LeRoy – Lisa Borley
Make-up artist Michael Magic – Michael O’Malley
Cameo appearance: Suzan Teofilo Sherman – Sept. 20 and 21
Cameo appearance: Dan Rafferty – Sept. 20
Cameo appearance: Maggie (McGinn) Dame – Sept. 21
Cameo appearance: Jack Janowicz – Sept. 26, 27 and 28
Cameo appearance: Kasey (Corrado) Schumacher – Sept. 26 and 27
Cameo appearance: Co-founder Joe Kiedinger – Oct. 3 and 4
Cameo appearance: Kelly (Haddad) Gusloff – Oct. 3 and 4
Cameo appearance: David Gusloff – Oct. 3 and 4
Cameo appearance: Emily Terrell Paulsen – Oct. 10, 11 and 12
Band: Guitars – Dennis Panneck, keyboard – Tony Pilz; drums – Adam Cain; bass – Pat Hibbard
Running time: 2½ hours
Remaining performances: Meyer Theatre, Green Bay, to Oct. 12: 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 1 p.m. Oct. 10 and 12; info: meyertheatre.org. Also, Capitol Civic Centre, Manitowoc, 7:30 p.m. Oct. 23; info: cccshows.org.
Song selections (Sept. 20)
“Do You Wanna Dance” (Bobby Freeman) – Frank Hermans
“Locomotion” (Dee Dee Sharp) – Lisa Borley
“Peppermint Twist” (Joey Dee and the Starliters) – Lisa Borley
“The Twist” (Chubby Checker) – Frank Hermans
“Let’s Twist Again” (Chubby Checker) – Frank Hermans
“Twistin’ the Night Away” (Sam Cooke) – Paul Evansen
“Poetry in Motion” sung as jingle “Poultry in Motion” (Johnny Tillotson) – Pat Hibbard
“Blame It on the Bossa Nova” (Eydie Gorme) – Amy Riemer
“The Night Has a Thousand Eyes” (Bobby Vee) – Pat Hibbard
“Da Doo Ron Ron” (The Crystals) – Lisa Borley
“He’s So Fine” (The Chiffons) – Jennifer Kanzelberger Polara
“I Will Follow Him” (Little Peggy March) – Amy Riemer
“Goin’ Out of My Head” (Little Anthony and The Imperials) – Jennifer Kanzelberger Polara
“Where the Boys Are” (Connie Francis) – Suzan Teofilo Sherman
“Name Game” (Shirley Ellis) – Amy Riemer
“Land of a Thousand Dances” (Wilson Pickett) – Pat Hibbard
Medley of Duane Eddy – Band
“Simple Simon” (Fruitgum) – Amy Riemer
“Good Lovin’” (The Young Rascals) – Frank Hermans
“You’re Sixteen” (Johnny Burnette) – Tom Verbrick
“Stupid Cupid” (Connie Francis) – Jennifer Kanzelberger Polara
“Run Around Sue” (Dion) – Pat Hibbard
“Dancin’ in the Streets” (Martha and the Vandellas) – Lisa Borley
“Strollin’” (The Diamonds) – Frank Hibbard
“Bread and Butter” (The Newbeats) – Jennifer Kanzelberger Polara
“Be My Baby” (The Ronettes) – Amy Riemer
“Jimmy Mack” (Martha Reeves & The Vandellas) – Lisa Borley
“Great Balls of Fire” (Jerry Lee Lewis) Dan Rafferty
“Devil with the Blue Dress” (Shorty Long) – Pat Hibbard
“Good Golly Miss Molly” (Little Richard) – Pat Hibbard
“Go Away Little Girl” (Bobby Vee) – Frank Hermans
“Who’s Sorry Now” (Connie Francis) – Amy Riemer
“Wild One” (Bobby Rydell) – Michael O’Malley
“Higher and Higher” (Jackie Wilson) – All
NEXT: “Frank’s Christmas,” Dec. 4 (Manitowoc), Dec. 6-28 (Green Bay).
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.