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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘My Big Fat Pulaski Wedding: 10 Year Reunion’ frisky in Green Bay

Critic At Large

Let Me Be Frank Productions

Karen Coppersmith, from left, Pat Hibbard, Frank Hermans, Lisa Borley, Tony Pilz, Blake Matthews, Amy Riemer, Dennis Panneck, Sarah Galati, Andrew Klaus, Tom Verbrick and Paul Evansen make of the company for Let Me Be Frank Productions’ “My Big Fat Pulaski Wedding: 10 Year Reunion.” (Sue Pilz Photography)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – A whole lot goes on in Let Me Be Frank Productions shows as the setup for the main event: showcase singing with versatile band.

The music this time is of the ’80s, meaning there’s a lot of high-production glide. Singers are dressed for the era.

The story of creative duo Frank Hermans and Pat Hibbard visits a marriage 10 years down the road, potholes and all. Included are two dream sequences, a surreal scene with guy talk, a pile of quirky characters, an earthy undercurrent and a tone of regret and seriousness that may be a product of the COVID-19 Pandemic Blues.

The bonus in all this is the show is live with an in-person audience in the Meyer Theatre in downtown Green Bay. Such large-scale shows still are not common, so merely being in the presence of “My Big Fat Pulaski Wedding: 10 Year Reunion” feels good.

“This Time I Know It’s for Real” scene. (Warren Gerds)

In the setup, Frank (Frank Hermans) is visited in a dream by his mother-in-law (Karen Coppersmith, who in real life is Frank Hermans’ mother). Frank is told that his 10-year anniversary with Amy is at hand, and he had better do right by Amy. Everything now revolves around Frank putting together a surprise party with the rogue’s gallery of people from Frank and Amy’s wedding day.

First, Frank Hermans, the band and backup singers do right – taking extra care of Mom – by setting up Karen Coppersmith for her solo spot of nicely singing “You Needed Me.”

The rogues include a tipsy tootsie (portrayed by Sarah Galati), an eye-for-women pastor who sounds like Foghorn Leghorn (Tom Verbrick) and a Don Juan (Paul Evansen).

Portraying 10-year-old Harrison (Frank and Amy’s son) is Blake Matthews, 21. Harrison of the story is full of mischief, like scarfing up half-full drink glasses. Now, Blake Mathews in real life is Harrison Hermans’ half-brother, and people on stage keep calling him Blake instead of Harrison. Head twisting? You betcha.

In singing, the singers own their songs in their own way. Amy Riemer, Lisa Borley and Sarah Galati certainly know how to light up the stage with a whole lot of luster in their high-octane songs.

Somewhere in a whole bunch of the songs, an instrumental solo will come along for bassist Pat Hibbard, drummer Andrew Klaus, guitarist Dennis Panneck or keyboardist Tony Pilz to really dig into the action and add a highlight.  

Frank Hermans’ hybrid tenor rings, and his duet of “Reunited” with Amy Riemer is an oasis of sweet romance.

Paul Evansen adds to his range in the era’s styles, including the quick rip of “Goody Two Shoes.”

Blake Matthews has a certain rhythm flow brightening his aura.

“You Got It (The Right Stuff”) scene. (Warren Gerds)

A big joke on the night is Tom Verbrick when he takes on a Milli Vanilli song in which the band leaves because the music is playing but it isn’t, and then everybody else drifts away before the soundtrack goes haywire.

A set of jokes surround Pat Hibbard’s character. One: Pat is miffed at Amy for taking away his best friend, Frank. Amy hates polka music, and Pat, as the leader of the Polkatones, gets back by polka-izing a slew of ’80s songs in super-fast polka speed. Pat Hibbard also squishes power rock into new form when he unleashes the Beastie Boys’ “Fight for Your Right (to Party)” as “Fight for Your Right to Polka.”

Pat Hibbard also is key with his word-warping way in another elaborate joke in a scene in which all the men are together for say-what?/screwball philosophizing. Definition: To speculate or theorize about fundamental or serious issues, especially in a tedious or pompous way. In this case, the guys are all comical.

Throughout are layers of real-world angst. Some are from bad choices, some from choices presented by way of kids and some from what life hands out in everyday or extraordinary things. It’s all the stuff of songs. And fuel for Frank’s singers, and, wow, can the women soar.

***

Running time: Two hours, 10 minutes

Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. April 3, 9 and 10, 1 and 7:30 p.m. April 15, 7:30 p.m. April 16 and 1 and 7:30 p.m. April 17

Info: meyertheatre.org

Note: Due to COVID-19 considerations, the audience size is limited to 25 percent capacity. Masks are required. More information is on the theater’s website.

Cast:

Lisa Borley

Karen Coppersmith

Paul Evansen

Sarah Galati

Frank Hermans

Pat Hibbard

Blake Matthews

Amy Riemer

Tom Verbrick

Band: Pat Hibbard (bass), Andrew Klaus (drums), Dennis Panneck (guitars), Tony Pilz (keyboards)

Support: Ross Loining (lights) Kelly Klaus (sound)

***

Song selections

Act I

“This Time I Know It’s for Real” (Donna Summer) – Amy Riemer, all

“You Needed Me” (Anne Murray) – Karen Coppersmith

“Should’ve Known Better” (Richard Marx) – Blake Matthews

“Manic Monday” (Bangles) – Sarah Galati, Lisa Borley, Amy Riemer

“It Must Have Been Love” (Roxette) – Lisa Borley

“What About Love” (Heart) – Amy Riemer

“It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me” (Billy Joel) – Paul Evansen and the guys

“Love Stinks” (The J. Geils Band) – Pat Hibbard

“(I Just) Died in Your Arms” (Cutting Crew) – Frank Hermans

“Baby Don’t Forget My Number” (Milli Vanilli) – Tom Verbrick

Act II

“Never Knew Love Like This Before” (Stephanie Mills) – Lisa Borley, Sarah Galati, Amy Riemer

“Fight for Your Right” (Beastie Boys) – Pat Hibbard

“Reunited” (Peaches & Herb) – Frank Hermans and Amy Riemer

“Good Girls Don’t” (The Knack) – Frank Hermans

“Goody Two Shoes” (Adam Ant) – Paul Evansen

“Holding Out for a Hero” (Bonnie Tyler) – Sarah Galati

“With Every Beat of My Heart” (Taylor Dayne) – Lisa Borley

Polka frenzy of ’80s hits – Pat Hibbard, band

“Self Control” (Laura Branigan) – Sarah Galati

“Where Do Broken Hearts Go” (Whitney Houston) – Amy Riemer

“You Got It (The Right Stuff)” (New Kids on the Block) – Blake Matthews

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