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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘The Frankstones’ rock solid in Green Bay

Critic At Large

Let Me Be Frank Productions

Company of Let Me Be Frank Productions’ “The Frankstones.” (Sue Pilz Photography)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – Meet the Frankstones. They’re the modern COVID-age family from the town of Green Bay. They’re a page right out of history in the making.

Let Me Be Frank Productions’ “The Frankstones,” No. 1, is entertaining in the way 100-something Frank’s shows have been – singing and comical capers with music around a playful story.

The fun is the show is a takeoff on TV’s cartoon classic “The Flintstones,” with everybody dressed in stone-age pelts and playing characters from the show with names slightly changed. Instead of Barney Rubble, it’s Barney Trouble – to avoid proprietary problems.

All the songs have “rock,” “fire” or “stone” in their title. Overall, the style is rock R&B… on a groove.

Names are plays on words. A recliner is a rockcliner. Walmart is Cavemart. A Rolls-Royce is a Rocks-Royce. Amazon is Amastone. And on and rock on.

One joke is fire was invented last week.

The story is about how pals Fred and Barney and their families pick on each other because of a job promotion only one can get. Woven through are singing showcases and clever turns on words and time concepts.

The production feels like Let Me Be Frank Productions hasn’t missed a beat in the past four months.

Everything on stage is pretty much normal. The difference is off stage in the house. Rules (printed below). Masks. Spacing of seating.

Friday’s opening night audience was typical in numbers (more than 100), only spread out. Mostly, people came as couples or in fours, like usual.

Audience responses for lustrous singing or frisky jokes were bursts of applause or laughs, only spread out.

The full-blown homegrown all-out “regular” show answered questions. With rules laid out, people will come. Entertainment can happen.

Here are some differences from the stage: In his usual opening byplay with the audience, troupe namesake Frank Hermans wore a mask because he was on the edge of the stage, and some people were in the front row. After that, it was masks off as the performers put on the show at least 20 feet back of the lip of the stage. During bows, the cast members did not hold hands. Afterward, the cast did not greet the crowd upon leaving at the front entrance. Except for Hermans’ outpourings of gratitude to the audience, the show was a Frank’s show – large scale and loaded with intricacies.

This and that:

+ Co-writer and co-director Pat Hibbard took the lead on writing “The Frankstones.” His mind turns around stuff like this: In real life, we hear the phrase about “history repeating itself.” As the character Barney Trouble of the stone age, he speaks of “creating history.” Pat Hibbard has plays on words for “the first rock star” (Blake Hermans as Rock Hardly). A speaker pontificates on something going “all the way back to 19.” That’s it, just 19 – not 1999 or any other 1900.

+ Built-in spoofing comes when Tom Verbrick steps out of his character to complain about not getting enough stage time. He breaks into other people’s scene to grumble, and that ends up with him getting a door slammed on him. He peeks around the corner of the set piece to whimper some more.

+ Any time Amy Riemer, Lisa Borley or Sarah Hibbard take to the fore, they light up with vocal vigor. Also, often offstage, they support other singers with spicy harmonies. Much happens in Let Me Be Frank Productions shows that is unseen.

+ The sons are fun. Blake Hermans and Zach Hibbard have been around performing so much that they step right up and deliver in character in their individual styles.

+ Here’s a rarity: A kind of bass/vocal, father/son duet with Pat Hibbard and Zach Hibbard having at the muscular “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy.”

+ The band’s nifty, as usual, with tasty solos.

+ Ad libs popped Friday night from Tom Verbrick – a quick surprise line and a whoops with a tall hat – that cracked up folks on stage and off.

+ The show starts like a jet takeoff with rapid-fire lyrics zipping from one performer after another in “Life is a Rock.” It’s like saying “This show is HERE and NOW.” And Friday night, that felt so good.  

***

Cast

Fred – Frank Hermans

Barney – Pat Hibbard

Wilma – Amy Riemer

Betty – Lisa Borley

Mr. Slate – Tom Verbrick

Pebbles – Sarah Hibbard

Rock Hardly – Blake Hermans

Bamm-Bamm – Zach Hibbard

Caveman #1 – Dennis Panneck

Caveman #2 – Jeff Arnold

Caveman #3 – Adam Cain

Band: Jeff Arnold, keyboards; Adam Cain, drums; Pat Hibbard, bassl Dennis Panneck, guitars

Remaining performances: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 1, Aug. 6-8 and 13-15, plus 1 p.m. Aug, 8, 13 and 15

Running time: Two hours

Info: meyertheatre.org

***

Musical selections

Act I

“Life is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)” (Reunion) – Pat Hibbard leading in for all

“The Cover of the Rolling Stone” (Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show) – Pat Hibbard, Frank Hermans, Tom Verbrick

“(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone” (The Monkees) – Amy Riemer

“I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll” (Joan Jett) – Sarah Hibbard

“Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy” (Bad Company) – Zach Hibbard

“So You Want to be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” (Tom Petty) – Blake Hermans

“Rock with You” (Michael Jackson) – Amy Riemer

“Papa Was a Rolling Stone” (The Temptations) – Frank Hermans

“Stone in Love” (Journey) – Lisa Borley

“Walk the Dinosaur” (Was Not Was) – Sarah Hibbard

Act II

“Rock Me Amadeus” (Falco) – Tom Verbrick

“Rock Steady” (The Whispers) – Blake Hermans

“Fire” (Pointer Sisters) – Sarah Hibbard

“Rock On” (Michael Damian) – Zach Hibbard

“Fire” (Jimmy Hendrix) – Pat Hibbard

“Rock Me Baby” (Tina Turner) – Lisa Borley

“Light My Fire” (Rhetta Hughes) – Amy Riemer

“Jailhouse Rock” (Elvis Presley) – Frank Hermans

“Stone in Love” (The Stylistics) – Lisa Borley

***

Meyer Theatre guidelines

+ Capacity will be limited to 25 percent of occupancy.

+ Staff will wear face masks.

+ Brown County, Meyer Theatre and backstage guidelines will be posted throughout the building.

+ Social-distance seating will be in place when the ticket is purchased.

+ Upper mezzanine will be open for general admission seating.

+ Social-distance ticket office, restroom and concession lines will be in place.

+ Hand sanitizers will be available throughout the building.

+ Staff will sanitize the high traffic areas throughout the show.

+ Doors for events will open an extra 30 minutes before regular door times.

+ Meyer Theatre and backstage will be sanitized after every event.

+ Guests will be asked to leave the event from back to front.

+ There will be no meet and greets with guests in the lobby or back of house

+ Merchandise will not be sold in the lobby. Online buying will be recommended.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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