Colorful chronicles this holiday season in Let Me Be Frank’s “A Frank’s Christmas”
By William Kopp
With the lighting ceremony of the Peace Tree this last week and the official start of Green Bay’s Christmas season comes another show from Green Bay’s Let Me Be Frank Productions — A Frank’s Christmas.
Let Me Be Frank Productions has written and produced over 137 musical comedies throughout the last two decades and this is their 23rd all-original Christmas show.
Frank Hermans, owner of Let Me Be Frank, is a self-proclaimed history buff and focuses many of his stories on Green Bay-related settings, incorporating them into new iterations of old stories.
As Hermans himself puts it, “We thought we’d take two stories, The Elf on the Shelf, which was written in 2005 and “The Elves and the Shoemaker,” a story written by the Grimms.
“We took those two stories, put them together and wrote a funny script about it,” he said. “We used a place called Don’s Shoes on University Avenue as our homebase. They started their business in 1950.”
The story is about a poor couple, a shoemaker and his wife and their purchase of an elf on a shelf at H.C. Prange’s Department Store.
The couple can’t have kids, but wish to, and as you would guess from the old stories it’s based on, the elves come to life at Don’s Shoes, assisting the couple in making money after the shoemaker wishes for help from the elf on the shelf.
It’s a magical show with a mix of mischief, mayhem, lots of laughs and a few surprises along the way.
“This is an all ages show. It’s family friendly,” Hermans said. “Great comedy, but one of the key things we’re known for is our music and the ability that we have.”
The cast holds many long-time performers, many of them who have been with the company for over 15 years, and newer cast members like Hermans’ son Blake Matthews, who has been a cast member for the last three years.
The show utilizes its performers and band for music from Sia to Keith Urban to Elvis to Christmas songs you could hear on the radio right now.
“My favorite part about working on the show is my collaboration with my wife (Amy),” Hermans said. “She used to work for me, we met through Let Me Be Frank. Our first date was actually during a Christmas show run.”
The show was written and prepared by Hermans and his wife starting in August, with music selection throughout late summer and rehearsals starting as soon as possible.
“Everything is pretty cut and dry,” he said. “We have 15 rehearsals. They get the script and I assign choreography for those that do that. We’re in our last week of rehearsal and are off-script already. Right now is where the funny parts start, where the ad libbing begins. That’s what we’re known for. You could go to performances multiple nights in a row and get a completely different show.”
In past shows, ad-libbing has always been a crowd favorite.
Hermans remembers a time in their show Here Comes Santa Claus in which he made up words to a song that he forgot the lyrics for.
“People in the audience didn’t even know I made them up. That’s the best part about live theater, the human part of it,” Hermans said. “I think we’re having as much fun up on the stage as the folks in the audience.”
There’s plenty of vocal preparations for the upcoming shows, but also a wariness to stay in good health for them.
With the cold and flu season coming upon the Green Bay area and the overarching pandemic looming overhead, Hermans said the two biggest obstacles to the rehearsal process were COVID-19 and the overall weather in regards to travel.
Some performers live outside of the Bay area, but he said he has no worries that his cast will be able to deliver.
Shows like this are a large time commitment for the performers, and so they try their best to stay in good health for the upcoming performances.
Audiences can expect big colors, lights, lots of stage props and great costumes with the coming show.
Hermans says, “it’s not only a great experience for the ears, it’s a great visual experience.”
The show runs from Nov. 25 to Dec. 23 at the Meyer Theatre and tickets will be available for $38.
You can purchase tickets at meyertheatre.org as well as 2023 season tickets on the Let Me Be Frank website at letmebefranks.com