How do you build a submarine? It depends on whether you’re hungry or strengthening a navy.
If it’s both, you have the Let Me Be Frank Productions show “Submarine Races ‘Manty’” that is running to Feb. 24 at Meyer Theatre.
The comedy with music blends – in Let Me Be Frank Productions’ loosey goosey ways – two chunks of fascinating history as an excuse to get into popular music of the 1940s as a musical landscape populated by quirky characters.
The show taps into the history of the submarine as a sandwich as it brings in two lunch-bucket guys from Connecticut. Also, the show tells of the submarine as it relates to an amazing story from World War II – that 28 submarine boats (one the second-most deadly of all in the Pacific) were built in Manitowoc, Wisconsin – our home turf. Although the show is playful, it gives proud respect to the feat accomplished at Manitowoc.
The “Submarine Races” of the title also assures co-writers Frank Hermans and Pat Hibbard sprinkle boy-girl action throughout the story.
Added up, the show is another original “event” that Let Me Be Frank Productions creates.
Company: Lisa Borley, Adam Cain (drums), David Gusloff, Frank Hermans, Pat Hibbard (bass), Michael Thomas O’Malley, Dennis Panneck (guitar), Tony Pilz (keyboard), Amy Riemer, Kasey Schumacher, Tom Verbrick
Running time: One hour, 55 minutes
Remaining performances: 8 p.m. Feb. 16, 22, 23; 1 and 8 p.m. Feb. 24
This and that:
+ The story features the women of the cast as Rosie the Riveter-type characters. One, Chiquita, is from Puerto Rico, so Amy Riemer can adopt a Latin accent and along the way color a bi-lingual “Besame Mucho.” U.S. Navy characters include Captain Pants, whose first name is Under – a subtle reference to a popular series of children’s books. The Connecticut characters are street-smart/in-your-face types, so there’s an edge to the story when they are around.
+ Whether as a trio or individually, Lisa Borley, Amy Riemer and Kasey Schumacher light up song after song with big voices. The show opens with them as a trio unleashing the bolts of energy of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy.” The song may be old, but its vitality never quits.
+ Interpretations of songs by the do-all band and singers play up brightness. Some of the songs are also known for subtle nuance (vs. pep), but the choice of style in this show is consistent. It’s not like a time machine has swept the listener to the 1940s but rather music of that era is heard with touches of today.
+ The singing voices of Frank Hermans in this show include something from a musical hall (“Peg O’ My Heart”), Elvis (“Blue Moon of Kentucky) and crooner (“You Always Hurt the One You Love”).
+ David Gusloff’s solos are studied and nifty interpretations, especially in a duet with Lisa Borley that develops in “Old Devil Moon.”
+ Pat Hibbard, the rock ‘n’ roll guy of the troupe, is featured a bit less in this show because of the ’40s style of music. However, Hibbard gets to do his thing in an interesting find, Roy Brown’s “Good Rockin’ Tonight,” which predates the famed “Rock Around the Clock.”
+ Among little things that add color are Lisa Borley slipping scat singing into “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” and Frank Hermans adding soulful harmonica playing to Amy Riemer’s presentation of “Blues in the Night” as she embraces a slow tempo and some deliciously long notes.
+ Working in comedic touches are Tom Verbrick as the Admiral and Michael O’Malley as a feisty Connecticut guy who, because of O’Malley’s character-actor vibe, brings a novelty element to his solo songs.
Overall, the show features a whole lot of really good songs presented not as scratchy, old records but as if they are of the present – a very nice now.
“Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” (Bette Midler) – Lisa Borley, Amy Riemer, Kasey Schumacher
“Blues in the Night” (Amy Winehouse) – Amy Riemer
“Good Rockin’ Tonight” (Roy Brown) – Pat Hibbard
“Old Devil Moon” (Petula Clark) – David Gusloff, Lisa Borley
“Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” (Ava Gardner/Annette Warren) – Kasey Schumacher
“Peg O’ My Heart” (The Trophies of Ziegfeld Follies) – Frank Hermans
“Route 66” (Nat King Cole Trio) – Michael O’Malley
“I’ll Be Seeing You” (Linda Eder) – Amy Riemer
“Fools Rush in (Where Angels Fear to Tread)” (Tommy Dorsey with Frank Sinatra) – Lisa Borley
“Swinging on a Star” (Bing Crosby) Tom Verbrick and female trio
“In the Mood” (Bette Midler) – Kasey Schumacher, Lisa Borley, Amy Riemer
“Jingle, Jangle, Jingle” (Kay Keyser) – David Gusloff
“Blue Moon of Kentucky” (Elvis Presley) – Frank Hermans
“Besame Mucho” (Lila Downs) – Amy Riemer
“Don’t Get Around Much Anymore” (Natalie Cole) – Lisa Borley
“You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby” (Bing Crosby) – Michael O’Malley
“Mule Train” (Frankie Laine) – David Gusloff
“Lullaby of Broadway” (Ella Fitzgerald) – Kasey Schumacher
“You Always Hurt the One You Love” (The Mills Brothers) – Frank Hermans
“Move It on Over” (Hank Williams) – Pat Hibbard
A little story/fact check: Jose de Jesus was a reporter for the Green Bay Press-Gazette in the early 2000s. He was born in Puerto Rico and schooled in Iowa. De Jesus used to get angry when people asked him if he needed a passport to be in the United States. Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, he would explain, and he is a U.S. citizen. Despite mentions that the Puerto Rican character Chiquita in “Submarine Races ‘Manty’” is in the United States illegally, she has the right to be in Manitowoc because she is a U.S. citizen.
NEXT: “Something Stinks in Kaukauna,” April 6-28.
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
THE PEOPLE: Robert Meyer was president and chief executive officer of Tape Inc. of
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