GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) – A whole lot is going on in any Let Me Be Frank Productions show. Together, they’re a Green Bay cultural phenomenon – homegrown originality that has lasted for 22 years and counting.
Frank’s latest comedy with music of a popular music era is “The Franky Bunch,” which is running much of the month at Green Bay’s Meyer Theatre with a side date at Manitowoc’s Capitol Civic Centre.
The show kind of/sort of borrows from “The Brady Bunch” that ran in prime-time TV from 1969 to 1974. There are takeoffs on characters and the main story line, with music picked from the charts during that time. Obvious in recent Frank’s shows, the music is cranked up loudly.
The story gives the singers characters they can build singing emotions into. That’s a high-tone way of saying the singing is really good.
My goodness, in this show there’s a presence (not copying but embracing an aura) of Aretha Franklin – Amy Riemer in “You’re All I Need to Get By”…
Of Stevie Wonder – Blake Hermans in “My Cherie Amour”…
Of Roberta Flack – Sarah Galati in “Feel Like Makin’ Love”…
Of a kind of solar flare – Lisa Borley in “(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All”…
Of rockin’ flair – Frank Hermans with the band that can play practically anything in the popular realm, Dennis Panneck laying in the guitar finesse, in “Alright Now.”
Without the story, these would just be a list of songs from a karaoke night. With the story, there are laughs along with a bit of cheese and cultural shocks. The cheese: References to hanky panky. Cultural shocks: Dad Brady’s favoritism for his three sons over his three stepdaughters, spiced with layers of male superiority that brought consistent audience reaction on opening night Friday.
Some of the laughs in the story have to do with the parental unit insisting that the children are grown enough so they should get a life and move out of the house. An interior joke is the people playing the children are not teenagers, and two are of grandparent age. Frank’s artistic license is that of special decree that begins, “Be it resolved that – only in Green Bay, Wisconsin – there shall be two fellows who write anything they want for a laff so singers can sing stuff that sort of fits in… dah, dah, dah.”
Each singer-actor creates a personality who teases his/her TV original mercilessly. There is a lot of inside stuff about the original series, though it’s not necessary to be into that show because the satire is super-thick – with the performers enjoying layers and layers of quirkiness. Two samples: Greg (Pat Hibbard) is “affectionate” toward step-sister Marcia (Amy Riemer), who has developed an “affectionate” TikTok audience. Peter (Tom Verbrick) squeakily whines about being overlooked, though nobody pays attention to him and his father can’t ever get his name right.
All this is done in ’60s-style flashy-colored clothing along with wigs galore.
It’s bizarre fun, Frank’s style. And loud.
Side thought: Entertainers love audiences. It goes with the territory. Sometimes, they signal that on stage. Sarah Galati has a gesture in “Feel Like Makin’ Love” that goes with the phrase “to you.” She opens her arms, and it seems her “you” is the audience in that moment. Subtle.
Running time: Two hours, five minutes
Remaining performances: Meyer Theatre, Green Bay: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 5; 10-12, 17-19; 1 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24; 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25; 1 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 26; info: meyertheatre.org. Capitol Civic Centre, Manitowoc: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 16; info: cccshows.org.
Dad Brady – Frank Hermans
Greg – Pat Hibbard
Marcia – Amy Riemer
Peter – Tom Verbrick
Cindy – Lisa Borley
Jan – Sarah Galati
Bobby – Blake Hermans
Band and support: Dennis Panneck (guitars), Pat Hibbard (bass), Tony Pilz (keyboards), Andrew Klaus (drums), Ross Loining (lights) and Kelly Klaus (sound)
“Brady Bunch Theme” song – All, with video
“Smile a Little Smile for Me” (Flying Machine) – Frank Hermans
“Oh My My” (Ringo Starr) – Tom Verbrick
“My Baby Loves Lovin’” (White Plains) – Blake Hermans
“Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast” (Wayne Newton) – Frank Hermans
“Everybody Plays the Fool” (The Main Ingredient) – Sarah Galati
“Peaceful” (Helen Reddy) – Amy Riemer
“I’ll Be There” (The Jackson 5) – Lisa Borley
“Give Me Love” (George Harrison) – Pat Hibbard
“Love or Let Me Be Lonely” (Friends of Distinction) – Sarah Galati, all
“(Last Night) I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All” (The 5th Dimension) – Lisa Borley
“Girl” (Davy Jones) – Blake Hermans
“Brand New Key” (Melanie) – Amy Riemer
“Feel Like Makin’ Love” (Roberta Flack) – Sarah Galati
“Mr. Big Stuff” (Jean Knight) – Lisa Borley
“My Cherie Amour” (Stevie Wonder) – Blake Hermans
“Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” (Steam) – Pat Hibbard
“Alright Now” (Free) – Frank Hermans
“You’re All I Need to Get By” (Aretha Franklin) – Amy Riemer
“It’s a Sunshine Day” (The Brady Bunch) – All
NEXT (at Meyer): “WOMA Algoma: You’ve Struck Gold,” April 1-23.
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.