andrew kruse-ross | frank's tribute | jan. 2020
“Yes, I get by with a little help from my friends," or so the Beatles' song goes. And no, you aren't likely to hear any fab four songs when Frank's Tribute takes the stage at the Ashwaubenon PAC but not to worry—you'll get plenty of Elvis and his friends as well.
Joining the group's namesake, Frank Hermans, for the occasion will be a host of top-notch performers with familiar faces — all are current Let Me Be Frank's performers or alumni.
“It's a different company than Let Me Be Frank Productions, but I love having these people involved in the things I do," says Hermans. “They're so good at what they do."
While opportunities to catch a scaled-down version of Frank's Tribute may come and go throughout the year, the January performance in Ashwaubenon allows Frank's Tribute to be experienced in its entirety. The show features Pat Hibbard as Yakov Smirnoff, Lisa Borley as Barbara Streisand, Paul Evansen as Neil Diamond, Kasey Schumacher as Karen Carpenter, Michael Hermans as George Jones and last but not least, Amy Riemer, who pulls triple duty as Reba McEntire, Dusty Springfield and Brenda Lee.
The January 24 presentation also features five-time consecutive “Best of the Bay" winners, the All-Star Band comprised of Hibbard, Dennis Panneck, Tony Pilz and Adam Cain.
“I really look forward to doing shows with the band," says Amy Riemer. “A lot of times, we do Tribute at smaller venues we don't have space for the band."
While the live band injects extra energy into the evening's performance, the inclusion of castmates Lisa Borley and Kasey Schumacher allows the trio to perform exacting live vocal harmonies during the show — albeit from just off stage.
“We're all backstage doing live backups," says Riemer. “The guys are always pushing us to be on stage because sometimes people think some of that is tracked."
Boasting seven performers and a live band, it's sometimes difficult to imagine Tribute's humble beginnings, which one can trace back all the way back to the 1970s in rural Arkansas. It's here that Hermans recalls he and brother Michael singing along to the lone Elvis record in their aunt's basement.
“We played that thing over and over again, singing along the entire time," recalls Hermans, who was in his early teens at the time.
Fast-forward a few years and Elvis songs gradually make their way into Let Me Be Frank's stage shows. The audience response is too much to ignore and soon people began “throwing money" at him to perform as Elvis.
To meet the demand for his Elvis routine, a small show was developed titled “Elvis Lost."
Offered to small private and corporate parties, the show featured a streamlined cast that included himself, Riemer and youngest brother, Heath.
The show was a hit and began to evolve into a proper Tribute show.
Similarly, Riemer, who was often told that she “looked and sounded a lot like Reba McEntire," by fans making their way down the LMBF's receiving line, took up impersonating the country star—with some encouragement from Frank, of course.
“I think he heard people tell me that one too many times and was like, 'That's it!'" says Riemer.
Hermans admits to struggling to learn new songs, so his efforts to expand Tribute relied heavily on Riemer's ability to learn songs quickly — a skill Riemer says she's had since childhood.
“That's always been there. I have a good melodic memory."
While still impersonating three — and sometimes four — performers, Riemer says the inclusion of other female members to the group was welcomed as it lessened the onus on her ability to learn new roles.
“For a while there, whenever we wanted to mix up Tribute, it was Amy learns a new character," says Riemer.
Luckily, with the addition of other performers, some of that responsibility has been lessened, but Riemer still takes on three roles during a Tribute show and occasionally the aforementioned fourth: Janis Joplin.
“She's really hard on my voice," says Riemer. “So she either needs to be at the end of a show or I need to get the big bucks."
Speaking of big bucks, many fans have shelled out the money to see Tribute's real-life counterparts on stage but that hasn't kept them away from Frank's Tribute. In what must be the ultimate compliment, many of McEntire's fans seem equally happy with Riemer's impersonation and keep coming back for more.
“A lot of the people that come to see us, they've actually met her," says Riemer. “They've met her and they still come to see me! It's very flattering."
As for Riemer, she too has seen McEntire in concert while in Las Vegas but that show was shared with Brooks & Dunn. She's yet to see McEntire's solo set and sadly, Riemer will be on stage at the Meyer during the final performance of Let Me Be Frank's “Monoma Mia," while McEntire is on stage at the Resch Center on April 25.
“We're missing her by one day!"
A relative newcomer to Tribute needs little introduction as brother Michael Hermans was there singing along to records all those years ago. In 2013, after the death of George Jones, Frank asked Michael if he'd consider taking on the role for Tribute.
Frank calls his brother “the best George Jones impersonator I've ever seen."
Not bad for a man that hadn't considered impersonating Jones until then.
For Michael, it's another opportunity to have fun with his sibling.
“[Performing together] is pretty cool. You can see it in the audience — hands moving, feet tapping — it's awesome," says Michael Hermans. “Who could ask for anything better?"
And, should George Jones not be your thing, Michael insists there's bound to be a part of Tribute that's right for everyone.
“The nice thing about it is that there's always someone there that loves that part of the show. Some people might like Elvis more, others might have memories of George Jones, and then you've got Reba—there's a little bit of everything."
Catch Frank's Tribute at the Ashwaubenon PAC, 2391 S. Ridge Road, at 7:30 p.m. on January 24. Tickets start at $26 and are available through ticketstaronline.com.