andrew kruse-ross | a frank's christmas | dec. 2019
A seasonal favorite for many families across northeastern Wisconsin returns for a remarkable 20th time. Yes, Let Me Be Frank's presents an all-new musical comedy fit for the entire family this holiday season.
A self-proclaimed history buff, or “history bluff" as his comedic Facebook account is titled, it's no wonder how much history has been infused into the troupe's shows and the annual Christmas show is no exception.
In recent years, A Frank's Christmas has been set aboard the deck of the historic “Christmas Tree Ship," which was launched in 1868; Wisconsin's “Wild West" in the 1880s; and more recently, the window displays and toy departments of H.C. Prange's and Schroeder's department stores.
This year, the history bluff is taking a backseat — mostly.
“This year I wanted to do a modern Christmas," says Frank Hermans, the troupe's namesake. “I've been going back in history the last few years. I wanted to write a show about today and what's going on in the retail business. This year, we're at Mills Fleet Farm."
Not one to throw out history entirely, Hermans admits with a grin, “I used to work there."
For anyone new to A Frank's Christmas, this family-friendly annual offering from LMBF's fuses stout doses of comedy, seasonal sentimentality and music.
On the comedic side of things, we have our cast of Fleet Farm employees.
“We've got a pretty diverse cast of characters in our retail store," says Hermans.
That cast includes the heart-on-the-sleeve store manager that nearly keels over with a heart attack whenever the words “Paypal" or “Amazon" are uttered (Tom Verbrick). There's the know-it-all curmudgeon from the tire department (Pat Hibbard), the Fleet Farm Fashionistas (Amy Riemer, Sarah Hibbard). There are the part-time middle school kids from heating and plumbing (Blake Hermans, Zach Hibbard) and the “Sugarplum Fairy" — a klepto that can't get enough holiday sweets (Lisa Borley).
Then there's Frank's character.
“I play the part-time cart corraler who's out on Huber with a tether bracelet on my ankle. I'm management material.
“Yes, we're kind of making fun of retail a bit but the retail industry is important in our society and there's more to our story; to me, maybe big box stores aren't the way to go," says Hermans.
“Fleet Farm is corporate now, but local is the way to go and to me, Mills Fleet Farm is local and I'd like to keep it around."
Herein lies our story.
Faced with the pressures of internet giant Amazon, Fleet Farm has to increase its holiday sales. With the ever-earlier appearing Toyland set as the backdrop, the Fleet Farm crew is asked to dress up as their favorite holiday characters to drum up lagging sales. To further push up sales, a department end-cap competition is devised. The employee with the best end-cap display will win $1,500 for themselves and another $1,500 to be donated to the charity of their choosing.
Naturally, the crew gets fired up contemplating how they'll spend their winnings but one member of the staff isn't so sure.
“There's that one employee that plans on donating all of it to charity," says Hermans.
“I think it's always better to give than to receive. I think it'll resonate with people during the holidays."
In a moment of life imitating art, Let Me Be Frank Productions has raised over $500,000 for local charities and non-profit entities over the years and that generosity carries on in 2019.
“On opening night, $10 of every paid admission will go to CP and we'll have the drum out for CP during the entire run," says Hermans.
Last year, the troupe raised more than $10,000 for that organization.
The Wed., Dec. 11 performance will raise funds for the Meyer Theatre Foundation with $10 of every paid admission going to that organization.
But back to our show, A Frank's Christmas features more than 20 classic holiday songs but in keeping with the contemporary theme, these songs have a bit of a “modern twist."
Hermans isn't shy about his favorites this year.
“Amy singing Kelly Clarkson and Lisa's 'Last Noel'—both amazing! They're going to blow you out of the water like they always do."
And, while a Let Me Be Frank's show generally toes the line somewhere around a PG-13 rating, Hermans insists A Frank's Christmas sports a G-rating and is fun for the whole family.
“The kids will love this one; it's got a big colorful set and the costumes are a lot of fun as well. It'll put the entire family in a great mood."
A Frank's Christmas runs every Wednesday through Saturday, Dec. 6-28 at 8 p.m. at the Meyer Theatre. Matinee performances are offered at 1 p.m. on Dec. 6, 12, 19 & 21.
Tickets available online at meyertheatre.org or by calling (920) 494-3401.
An out-of-town performance of A Frank's Christmas is offered at the Capitol Civic Centre in Manitowoc on Dec. 4 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets at cccshows.org or by phone at (920) 683-2184.
Do They Know It's Christmas? - Band Aid
Christmas Wrapping - Waitresses
Santa Baby - Gwen Stefani
Last Christmas - Taylor Swift
Underneath the Tree - Kelly Clarkson
Oh Come All Ye Faithful - Katharine McPhee
Little Bit of Heaven Everywhere - Francesca Battistelli
The First Noel - Glee
This Is My Wish - Jordan Sparks
Happy Happy Christmas - Ingrid Michaelson
Merry Christmas Everybody - Slade
It's Christmastime Again - Tom Petty
Here We Go A-Wassailing - Under The Streetlamp
In The Bleak Midwinter - David Phelps
We All Need Christmas - Def Leppard
Merry Christmas I Don't Want to Fight - Ramones
Merry Christmas Everyone - Shaken Stevens
Wonderful Christmastime - Paul McCartney
Oh Little Town of Bethlehem - Elvis
I Believe in Father Christmas - U2
A Medley of Christmas Songs