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Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: Year 20 for ‘A Frank’s Christmas’ in Green Bay a keeper, too

Critic At Large

Let Me Be Frank Productions

In the cast of “A Frank’s Christmas” of Let Me Be Frank Productions are, back row from left, Tom Verbrick, Sarah Hibbard, Lisa Borley, Amy Riemer and Pat Hibbard and, front row from left, Blake Hermans, Frank Hermans and Zach Hibbard. (Sue Pilz Photography)

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV)

And a partridge in a pear tree.

That, too, is in the latest Let Me Be Frank Productions show, which is sort of what the old Fleet Farm line is to Christmas shows: If “A Frank’s Christmas” doesn’t have it, you don’t need it.

Even in the mix is sweet soulful reverence.

The Green Bay-based show troupe’s 20th Christmas show is running to Dec. 28 in the Meyer Theatre.

As usual, the story around a musical showcase contains a tad of truth. “In 1982, I was fired from Fleet Farm,” namesake Frank Hermans says at the start. Hermans goes on to say why and note that the man who fired him now works as part of his operation.

Hermans and creative partner Pat Hibbard dream up a story that one of the box retailer’s stores battles Amazon with a shopping-experience-enhancement plan: Have employees dress as their favorite Christmastime characters in a toyland theme. The rah-rah store manager is into team building and employee rewards.

Amy Riemer, from left, Sarah Hibbard and Lisa Borley in character. (Sue Pilz Photography)

Much, much goes into setting up the next song. Many of the songs are from Christmas albums that big acts have come up with, including additions to the genre by Taylor Swift, Def Leppard, Paul McCartney, Tom Petty and U2.

Let Me Be Frank Productions doesn’t make same old, same old Christmas shows.

As always, all the singers act as individual characters they are dressed as. This time, they go from a Sugar Plum Fairy with a sweet tooth for candy and nut packages she happens to find open, to a sassy Mrs. Santa Claus, to an Elvis in a fire-engine red and snowflake-enhanced jumpsuit, to the pointy-hatted elf from the movie “Elf,” who spouts scientific explanations on any topic under the sun. And more.

All sorts of kidding goes into the character-making. Frank Hermans’ Elvis outfit, for instance, includes an ankle bracelet compliments of the Brown County Sheriff’s Office… in keeping with his character’s life of misfit messin’ up.

All the characters are loose wheels, with the loosest being Blake Hermans and Zach Hibbard as Heatmiser and Snowmiser, respectively, from “The Year Without a Santa Claus.” Along with individual features, the two team for an outstanding rendition of “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” The song has scores of versions. Theirs is especially over-the-top physical comedy with tongue-in-cheek add-in lines. The two go through the whole songs – the leaping lords and ladies dancing and maids a-milking and the whole shebang – always ending up with Zach Hibbard being the tree and Blake Hermans on his back squawking like a partridge in a pear tree. The thing is funny and amazing and ends with the two reeling from the workout.

Zach Hibbard, left, and Blake Hermans in character. (Sue Pilz Photography)

The general tone of the show is fun and games with Tom Verbrick, dressed as Scrooge, as the eager store manager weaving the storyline. The music is primarily pop (star-driven) with the prime luster coming from the three female singers as soloists and/or teammates. An example is Sarah Hibbard taking the lead on “Santa Baby,” with Amy Riemer and Lisa Borley adding colors in support.

A major section is “The First Noel.” Lisa Borley takes the sensitive lead; she is silhouetted at the start in special lighting effects. Behind her providing harmonic support are Amy Riemer, Frank Hermans, Sarah Hibbard, Tom Verbrick, Blake Hermans and Zach Hibbard. The song is part of the reverence I referred to.

It also comes in “In the Bleak Midwinter” with Blake Hermans soloing and in “O Come All Ye Faithful” with Amy Riemer, who soars in an especially long and pure note.

The costuming, the dance add-ins, the band setting a multitude of musical landscapes (Dennis Panneck playing five guitars), goofy comedy, serious moments (some referencing charity), personal anecdotes – there’s a whole lot in this Christmas package. Very entertaining.

***

Company

Cart coraller/Elvis – Frank Hermans

Buddy the Elf – Pat Hibbard

Suzy Snowflake – Amy Riemer

Store Manager Scrooge – Tom Verbrick

Sugar Plum Fairy – Lisa Borley

Mrs. Claus – Sarah Hibbard

Snowmiser – Zach Hibbard

Heatmiser – Blake Hermans

Band: Guitars – Dennis Panneck, keyboards Tony Pilz; drums – Adam Cain; bass – Pat Hibbard

Running time: Two hours, 25 minutes

Remaining performances: 8 p.m. Dec. 11; 1 and 8 p.m. Dec. 12; 8 p.m. Dec. 13-14, 18; 1 and 8 p.m. Dec. 19; 8 p.m. Dec. 20; 1 and 8 p.m. Dec. 21; 8 p.m. Dec. 22-23, 27-28.

Info: meyertheatre.org or letmebefranks.com

***

Song Selections (mostly)

“Do They Know It’s Christmas?” (Band Aid) – All

“Christmas Wrapping” (Waitresses) – Sarah Hibbard

“Santa Baby” (Gwen Stefani) – Sarah Hibbard

“Underneath the Tree” (Kelly Clarkson) – Amy Riemer

“O Come All Ye Faithful” (Katharine McPhee) – Amy Riemer

“Little Bit of Heaven Everywhere” (Francesca Battistelli) – Amy Riemer

“The First Noel” (Glee) – Lisa Borley

“This Is My Wish” (Jordan Sparks) – Lisa Borley

“The Twelve Days of Christmas” (Traditional) – Blake Hermans and Zach Hibbard

“Happy Happy Christmas” (Ingrid Michaelson) – Lisa Borley

“Merry Christmas Everybody” (Slade) – Frank Hermans

“It’s Christmastime Again” (Tom Petty) – Pat Hibbard

“Here We Go A-Wassailing” (Under the Streetlamp) – Blake Hermans

“In the Bleak Midwinter (David Phelps) – Blake Hermans

“We All Need Christmas” (Def Leppard) – Zach Hibbard

“Merry Christmas I Don’t Want to Fight” (Ramones) – Zach Hibbard

“Wonderful Christmastime” (Paul McCartney) – Frank Hermans

“I Believe in Father Christmas” – U2 (Tom Verbrick)

Medley of Christmas songs including “Suzy Snowflake,” “Mrs. Santa Claus,” “Dance of

the Sugar Plum Fairy,” “Blue Christmas,” “Snow Miser,” “Heat Miser,” “Baby It’s Cold Outside”

***

NEXT: “Best of 2019,” Dec. 31.

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

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