Warren Gerds/Critic at Large: Review: ‘Ghosts of Maribel Caves’ Delivers a Lot of a Lot in Green Bay

Let Me Be Frank Productions Ghosts of Maribel Caves image_1537619467760.jpg.jpg

From beginning to end, “Ghosts of Maribel Caves” is elaborate. It is Let Me Be Frank Productions show troupe of Green Bay going big.

No. 1 big thing: The opening is a video of ghost chasers Michael Midnight (Michael O’Malley) and Zachary Paparazzo (newcomer Zach Hibbard) telling their TV audience of their next exploit, at Maribel Caves Hotel. These guys are all made up (O’Malley especially over-the-top ghoulish) and into their weirdy characters. The video brings bonus gags.

No. 2 big thing: The first song, “Hotel California” by The Eagles, puts the cast in front of a drop of the interior of a spacious stone building. Cast members take turns singing the song, individual phrase by individual phrase, as the band lays out the overall colorful soundscape. As a singer sings, others freeze as in a tableau.

No. 3 big thing: The characters in the story are of two worlds – this one and an afterlife. Two ghosts who are visible to only a few others try to help people in this life find resolution, but the ghosts don’t who is to be helped and how. There’s a bit of mystery going on in this story.

In 25 words, the story of “Ghosts of Maribel Caves”: A haunted hotel at a historic Wisconsin wayside is reopening, and owner Adolph Cherney wants lingering spirits to go away, so he hires “Ghost Bouncers.”

***

Company, from left in photo: Michael O’Malley, Tom Verbrick, Kasey Schumacher, Zach Hibbard, Dennis Panneck (guitar), Adam Cain (drums), Tony Pilz (keyboard), Frank Hermans, Amy Riemer, Lisa Borley, Pat Hibbard (drums)

Running time: Two hours, five minutes

Remaining performances: Through Oct. 13 in Green Bay at Meyer Theatre: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, plus 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13. Info: meyertheatre.org. Also, in Manitowoc at Capitol Civic Center: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 10. Info: cccshows.org

***

Woven through the story are songs of the ’70s/’80s. Some songs are hits, and some are dense material to go along with the characters they are expressing.

Along with making “Hotel California” a kind of production number at the start, this show ends with a rare (for the troupe) dual showcase. Pat Hibbard is featured on bass and vocals in “Devil Woman,” with that song feeding into the presentation of “Black Cat” sung/danced by Lisa Borley (with additional dancing by Amy Riemer and Kasey Schumacher) to make another kind of big thing.

The characters in this show are especially defined.

Frank Hermans is the nasally, nerdy owner of Maribel Caves Hotel.

Amy Riemer is his prim, prissy wife – a 180-degree opposite of some of the dark tigresses Riemer has played.

Tom Verbrick is a ghost gangster on the lam in limbo from such notorious 1920s patrons of Maribel Caves Hotel as John Dillinger and Al Capone. The opening video has a joke photo of Dillinger and Capone wearing cheese heads.

Kasey Schumacher is a ghost Yooper who has dis ting (Yooper talk) about moving on from the hotel in her afterlife. She drifts/dances around the stage and story in major ways.

Lisa Borley is the hotel/historic site’s tour guide, Lisa, who his trying to put a love life together.

Pat Hibbard is the maintenance man, who is confused by Lisa’s interest, just as she is confused by his fresh-from-Russia (or thereabouts) accents and slaying of English. It is amazing what the word “carcass” can mean in a fresh-from-Russia (or thereabouts) accent.

Michael O’Malley looks like Halloween on the hoof as one of the “Ghost Bouncers.” He is super made up with a raccoon/ghoul face, shock of hair and dark clothes. O’Malley likes to act/characterize, and, again, he’s into that again big time.

Zach Hibbard is the techie “Ghost Bouncer,” who makes a breakthrough with the Yooper ghost and gangster ghost that produces now-you-see-me/now-you-don’t comedy.

Wigs and hairdos are big things in this show. Notables: Schumacher’s haystack, O’Malley’s burst, Hermans’ slicked-back black-dye do and Riemer’s fussy coiffure that’s about 75 shades darker than her natural red.

As far as the story goes, I don’t know if I get the cosmic ending. Little matter, getting there is plenty interesting/entertaining.

The entertainment surely includes the band, which has a load of catchy, clever, dynamic material to set loose. Without the live-wired band, there would be no wheels on the wagon of Let Me Be Frank Productions.

Zach Hibbard offers Frank’s first true whack at heavy-metal high horsepower in “Running with the Devil.” His father, Pat Hibbard, delivers the more straight-on rock goods.

Kasey Schumacher and Amy Riemer dig into songs with hefty meanings in “Mad World” and “Destination Unknown,” respectively. The songs are a kind of art pop.

Lisa Borley lofts “Tell It to My Heart.”

The byplay between Frank Hermans and real-life wife Amy Riemer is loaded with playful references to their real/not real life. Battle-of-the-sexes jokes turn around references to a woman’s place being in the kitchen, to which Schumacher warns, “That’s where we keep the knives.”

Another prime joke: O’Malley, whose “Ghost Bouncer” is slow out of the gate, gets in a huff. He says, “So what if I don’t know what ‘Armageddon’ means. It’s not the end of the world.”

There is simply (not-so-simply) a lot a lot in “Ghosts of Maribel Caves.”

***

Musical selections

Act I

“Hotel California” (Eagles) – All

“Evil Woman” (ELO) – Frank Hermans, All

“Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” (Jim Croce) – Tom Verbrick

“Mad World” (Adam Lambert) – Kasey Schumacher

“Running with the Devil” (Van Halen) – Zach Hibbard

“How Will I Know” (Whitney Houston) – Amy Riemer

“Train in Vain” (The Clash) – Michael O’Malley

“Tell It to My Heart” (Taylor Dayne) – Lisa Borley

“Rhiannon” (Fleetwood Mac) – Kasey Schumacher

Act II

“Heart Hotels” (Dan Fogelberg) – Frank Hermans

“Black Magic Woman” Santana – Dennis Panneck (guitar), Michael O’Malley

“Destination Unknown” (Missing Persons) – Amy Riemer

“Walking on Broken Glass” (Annie Lennox) – Kasey Schumacher

“Lovergirl” (Teena Marie) – Lisa Borley

“Let’s Dance” (David Bowie) – Tom Verbrick, All

“Witchy Woman” (Eagles) – Zach Hibbard

“Invincible” (Pat Benatar) – Amy Riemer

“Devil Woman” (Cliff Richard) – Pat Hibbard

“Black Cat” (Janet Jackson) – Lisa Borley

***

NEXT: “A Frank’s Christmas,” Nov. 30-Dec. 23.

THE VENUE: Stop and look around the place. Meyer Theatre’s auditorium is an eye full. The Meyer 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.

Contact me at warren.gerds@wearegreenbay.com. Watch for my on-air Critic at Large editions on WFRV-TV at 6:20 a.m. Sundays. My latest book, “I Fell Out of a Tree in Fresno (and other writing adventures),” is available in Green Bay at Neville Public Museum and Bosse’s.

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