Marriage is complicated and full of misunderstandings, but sometimes with miscommunication, hilarity ensues. That’s the case with Let Me Be Frank Productions’ first-ever sequel, “My Big Fat Pulaski Wedding – The Honeymoon is Over.”
The lighthearted musical comedy picks up where the wildly popular 2011 production of “My Big Pulaski Wedding” ended. This time, there is trouble in paradise for the Hermans.
“The story now is we are pregnant again and she (Amy) overhears me on a phone conversation. She overhears me planning our three year anniversary party,” said Frank Hermans, owner of Let Me Be Frank Productions. “She’s pregnant, hormones flying all over the place, thinking I’m doing the wrong thing. The story revolves around guys and girls’ relationships, our friends, and how to keep us together. And how to kept this party a secret without Amy knowing what I’m planning.”
While the setup for the show is concocted for disastrous and funny happenings, the audience should also be prepared to travel back in time. In the original staging, the Hermans got hitched at an iconic venue in the village of Pulaski.
“We got married at The Swamps, which is now a defunct business. It’s where the Pulaski Polka Days happened. That was the place for weddings there in the 60’s. So we bring back a lot of the historical stuff from Pulaski in the 60’s: Zielinski’s Bar, The Swamps, and the bowling alley,” said Hermans.
Another trademark of a Let Me Be Frank Production is the music. Like the setting, the tunes are sure to conjure up some memories.
“A lot of 60’s and 70’s music. 23 different songs,” Hermans said. “We don’t do full songs; they are usually cut down, cause we’ve got a story to tell. So you’re getting the meat of the song. Probably two verses, a chorus, and a bridge. But it brings back memories. It’s all great music.”
A Cast of Many Talents
The cast of “My Big Fat Pulaski Wedding – The Honeymoon is Over” is one of a kind with a wide range of vocal talents.
“Everyone can sing like no tomorrow,” said Hermans. “I know everyone’s voice so well, so when I pick songs for them I pick songs that sound like them. Jack Janowicz is a wonderful R&B singer. Lisa Borley has that type of wailing voice, so she can take a song like “Fool on a Hill” which was done by Sergio Mendes in 1966. She takes that song and makes it her own. We all do.”
Beyond the singing, Frank says his players are fantastic ad-lib actors.
“It’s different than anything else you’ve seen. We really pride ourselves on the moment. On how we react to the audience. The audience gets an experience like none other because we incorporate them in our show sometimes.”
Motivation and Entertaining an Audience
Let Me Be Frank Productions is in its fourteenth year and staging its 84th production. When I asked Frank what keeps him going, he replied, “Cause I still pinch myself when I walk on stage. I walk on the Meyer stage, I can’t believe eight years ago, I was handed the key to the city when they asked me to be the house troupe for the Meyer Theatre. I’m not going to give it up. I’m motivated to produce funny shows.”
He added, “I want to keep active with the people that work for me and produce funny light show that people keep coming to. Our season ticket base grows every year, so I must be doing something right.”
Interestingly enough, Frank says it’s not just people in Northeast Wisconsin attending his shows.
“We have season ticket holders from Washington that come here to see the show. We have people from Arizona that fly here twice a year and their main reason is to come and see our show. The shows are regional but still come across as anywhere in the United States. I could take “Big Fat Pulaski Wedding” and go to Bismark, North Dakota and call it “Bismark’s Honeymoon is Over” and then change the names of places. The comedy is still relevant and it’s not always regional.”
“My Big Fat Pulaski Wedding – The Honeymoon is Over” runs from September 20 through October 12 at the Meyer Theatre. Tickets are $29 and are available online through Ticket Star.
The Magic of “A Frank’s Christmas”
Frank Hermans and the others at Let Me Be Frank Productions are always looking ahead and working hard on the next production. “A Frank’s Christmas” is right around the corner with the first show scheduled for November 22.
Frank gave me a little insight into this year’s holiday extravaganza.
“This year will be our fourteenth Christmas show. It’s different every year, but I still called it “A Frank’s Christmas.” But it’s a different story. This year I got to know H.C. Prange’s grandson. And I talked to him about how I’ve always wanted to do a show where those caricatures in the windows come to life. Where there’s a caretaker, an older gentleman who doesn’t have family and his passion is making sure these caricatures are there for the kids to see. But when he leaves, they come to life. Their big thing is Old Man Frank, or whatever the character’s name is, doesn’t have anyone on Christmas. So a miracle happens and they spend Christmas with him. It will be heartfelt but funny.”
Frank also says the show will have a very classic feel.
“It’s going to be a traditional Christmas show as far as the music. We’re staying very traditional this year. I’m basing it in the 40’s when Prange’s was the place. You came there to see the animatronics. The grandson of H.C. Prange has given me some pointers.”
More Regional Stories in the Works
One of the first lessons many writers learn is to write what you know. For Franks Hermans, Northeast Wisconsin and its regionalisms are what he knows best.
“Both sides of my family moved here in the 1850’s, so there are many stories about Northeastern Wisconsin that I know about through my family, and what I saw. I’m 49, so I was here in the 60’s and 70’s. Those are the kind of stories I write a lot. My mom and dad tell me a lot of what happened in the 50’s,” Hermans said. “I just love Wisconsin, I’m community driven. There are so many stories that can be told. When people come to the show, they’re more attached to it. Oh yeah, I remember that. Or yeah, that’s really a place.”
Hermans has made a career of writing about the area’s landmarks and their history, but he also likes to put his own spin on the story.
“I always like to take something that happened and then make something up about it. For example, next year I’m doing a show called “Nine and a Half Belgians.” The story is about the Frosty Tip in Dyckesville. Famous place for stopping to get ice cream on your way to Door County. Well my friend lived there with his parents. They had nine kids. He was number nine. We called him nine. So the story is about him and his family running the Frosty Tip.”
Northeast Wisconsin and its history are the inspiration for many of Frank’s plays, including a recent story about Curly Lambeau he collaborated with Cliff Christl on. That wasn’t his first Packers-related play and it won’t be his last.
“I’ve written a show about Brett Favre, Brent the Musical. That was four years ago and was wildly successful,” Hermans said. “I’m actually going to write one about Johnny Blood.”
I look forward to seeing what Frank does with story of the famed Packers halfback. I can image that like his other stories, setting will play an important role.
“The history of the Packers is still downtown Green Bay. In the 30’s and 40’s, Green Bay was a hub of the NFL and everything happened downtown,” Hermans said.
Auditioning for Let Me Be Frank Productions
Let Me Be Frank Productions is always keeping an eye out for fresh talent. Hermans stays very active working on his own material, but also checking out performances at area high schools, colleges, and community theaters.
“Everyone in our cast I usually follow their career before I asked them to join or I ask them to audition. I’ve auditioned hundreds of people. But usually the people I’ve brought on, I’ve followed their career through high school or college.”
Jack Janowicz is one of those performers. “My Big Fat Pulaski Wedding – The Honeymoon is Over” will be his last show before he moves to Los Angeles.
“Jack auditioned for me when he was 16. I didn’t know who the kid was, so I went to watch him perform. First of all, he has a voice beyond maturity. As we brought him on, we taught him to be funny,” Hermans said.
Frank says even the most dedicated actor sometimes needs time off, so he’s always auditioning.
“I keep my eyes open for young talent, and I do auditions all the time. You never know when the right person is out there. It’s a tough schedule if you’re a full-time Let Me Be Frank’s guy. It’s 100 dates a year. Some people take shows off, take time off. So we have to replace them. We have a revolving cast.”
If you think you have what it takes, click here to find out how to audition for Let Me Be Frank Productions.
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