By Lori Kaye Lodes
Maritime Drive is no longer the hottest roadway in Manitowoc now that the Munsters have come to town to live at 1313 Mockingbird Ln. in Let Me Be Frank’s production of The Manitowoc Munsters.
This crew of benign monsters takes its cue from the kitschy 1960s sitcom.
But in this production, Ana Munster comes to none other than Manitowoc, Wis. (instead of the original sitcom’s location in a Los Angeles suburb) and the haunted mansion of Herman, Lilly, Eddie, Grandpa and Marilyn to try to steal the family’s riches — with the unwitting assistance of the Fuller Brush Man.
The humor is ever-present: Grandpa Munster channels Dracula — with an East Coast accent and plenty of one-liners — and a truth serum he whips up and accidentally gives to himself and Herman.
Marilyn is the “odd duck,” the traditionally beautiful woman in human terms but the “ugly duckling” among the Munsters who pity her looks.
As with most Let Me Be Frank Productions, the laughs abound as the story comes to life with colors, backdrop, lighting, props, makeup and costumes to make the 1960s proud, as well as some awesome ’60s era music.
“Visually, it’s a stunning production, and I have to say the music is also stunning because it’s all from the original Munsters [sitcom] timeframe,” said Hermans. “And it’s hilarious!”
The production is a spoof on The Munsters show that ran from 1964 to 1966, much in the vein of Frank Hermans’ other spoof productions such as the The Franky Bunch, a nod to The Brady Bunch.
And it features plenty of the fun pokes at area locales live theater fans appreciated in productions of Frank’s Washington Island and Menoma Mia.
Written on a whim
The idea for The Manitowoc Munsters originated with Let Me Be Frank Productions’ keyboardist Tony Pilz, who mentioned it on a whim last year.
Hermans thought it was a great idea, scratched his original idea for fall 2022 off the calendar and penciled The Munsters in.
“At that point, I had no idea what we were going to do or what I was going to write,” he said. “I knew it needed a local tie-in, and after throwing out a few other cities, and knowing we had a performance there, we chose Manitowoc.”
Hermans usually begins writing a production when he’s about a week into performing an existing one and a month before rehearsals on the next one begin.
In this case, he had already begun his research, buying The Munsters TV series and watching 20 to 30 episodes to get a feel for the plots and the ’60s humor.
He scrawled down a few notes, but the rest of the prep work occurred in his head – including characters and storyline – although he didn’t know the dialogue until he sat in front of the computer.
With Manitowoc Munsters, he wrote the show in three days.
As is his usual process, he waited a week and then went back to edit the script and add more humor before asking his wife, Amy Riemer-Hermans, who also acts in this production as Lily Munster, to proofread it.
“I love writing dialogue and jokes, and when I have a scene in mind, I’ll start a show without having any idea how it will end,” he said. “It comes to me as the process is going.”
For Manitowoc Munsters, he thought it appropriate to launch the script with a first scene that is verbatim the sitcom’s first episode, as he thought it was among its funniest.
“I then added my little tricks to make it more local,” he said. “The story just exploded after that, with all the craziness and silliness of a sitcom.”
Fleshing out the production
Hermans looks to Riemer-Hermans and to Pat Hibbard, who plays bass and serves as musical director, to select the right music and the right people to perform it.
As is the Let Me Be Frank troupe’s usual process, they finished their previous production’s performances, took a week off and then started rehearsal for The Munsters.
That occurred at the end of August at their offices and rehearsal space at 305 S. Broadway in Green Bay.
First, Hermans sent everybody to choreography to prepare for the first rehearsal, as the group typically has only 13 to 15 rehearsals from start to finish.
The first two feature choreography and reading, the third is focused on singing and blocking, and then the remaining rehearsals run the show from beginning to end.
The South Broadway location is also home to the troupe’s costume shop, where Hermans credits Riemer-Hermans’s mom, Bev Riemer, with transforming some basic Halloween-quality costumes to another level by customizing a few things, as well as Linda Groskopf for putting her artistic skills to work on the props and backdrops.
It doesn’t hurt that Hermans has three storage units full of props, and he is always on the lookout for items at flea markets, Facebook Marketplace, etc. to bolster the inventory for shows he already has forming in his head.
He said The Munsters is such a visually stunning production both because of the costuming and makeup, as well as the set and the premier lighting and sound all Let Me Be Frank Productions’ shows use.
“We have some top-notch team members who keep me up to date on the latest technology — technology you’d see in Pigeon Forge and Branson productions,” Hermans said. “It helps our shows always look fresh and new and high end.”
Makeup played a significant role in this production, especially for Hermans personally in his role as the Frankenstein-esque character.
“I am going home green every night after doing my own face makeup, including shading, in 10 minutes,” he said. “But it washes off well.”
He credits the talent of the acting cast and musicians for the production’s success, saying he’d put his group’s talent against anyone’s, anywhere.
Many of the troupe’s members have a long tenure with Let Me Be Frank, although there are several newer team members with just a few years under their belts.
Even Riemer-Hermans and Hermans’ children are getting into the act.
Formula for success
Hermans’ goal with The Manitowoc Munsters is the same as all his productions.
“I want the audience to forget what they were doing before they got there and to fully immerse their emotions in the [production],” he said. “For two to two and and a half hours, I want them to forget about everything going on in their life and be swept away by the acting, the music, the humor.”
He has the right formula.
Since Let Me Be Frank’s inception 22 years ago, Hermans has created 137 successful productions for local audiences in addition to the troupe doing jukebox musicals in Las Vegas and Arizona.
“We are unique because we write our own stories, and we use a lot of local history in our productions,” said Hermans. “We dig deeply into our history. I’m excited to say that for next year, I got permission to do a Willy Wonka-esque show called Seroogy’s: Green Bay’s Willy Wonka. We can only do what we do because of this community.”
In addition to the troupe members listed above, others involved in The Manitowoc Munsters include Lisa Borley, Paul Evansen, Michelle Oren, Tom Verbrick, Andrew Klaus, Kelly Klaus, Ross Loining and Dennis Panneck.
If you go
The Manitowoc Munsters runs through Saturday, Oct. 8 at the Meyer Theatre in downtown Green Bay.
Purchase tickets at meyertheatre.org.