In high school, Frank Hermans was a friend of the youngest of the Pancratz brothers from Dykesville. There were nine of the boys, and their buddies had long since given up on trying to keep their names straight. Instead, they were identified by birth order. Frank’s friend, being the last born, was known as #9.
“It was literally years before I learned that his name was Mark,” Hermans says.
There was one exception to the rule: The second oldest brother was unusually large. His parents, Herky and Mable Pancratz, referred to him as #2 ½. And therein lies a tale. Hermans attended the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay as a theater major, but spent a number of years as a businessman. He was 30 in 1994 when the theater bug bit him again and he auditioned for and won a major role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at St. Norbert College.
Six years later, he opened Frank’s Dinner Theater at the Sports Corner in De Pere, and in 2002 built the SC Grand/Frank’s Dinner Theater, where his troupe performed musical comedies 150 nights a year. In 2007, they moved to the historic Meyer Theatre.
“Getting out of property ownership,” Hermans says, “allowed me to devote 100 percent of my time to writing and performing.”
Since then, Let Me Be Frank Productions, Diamonds and Gold, have played 102 dates a year at the Meyer and 60 dates elsewhere in Wisconsin. On Jan. 10 and 11, the musical comedy Two and a Half Belgians will be presented at the Southern Door Community Auditorium (SDCA).
The setting of the show is the Frosty Tip in Dykesville that the Pancratz family operated from the 1960s through the 1980s to fund the nine boys’ attendance at Premontre High School in Green Bay. (The Frosty Tip is still there, now owned by the Deprey family.) The story takes place in the summer of 1968.
The four oldest Pancratz boys are hoping that some cute girls will show up at the Frosty Tip and they’re not disappointed. Amy Wrigley, Lisa Halas and Kasey McCaskey appear in their custom ’57 Chevy, looking for a bite to eat before heading to Fish Creek. #2 ½ is smitten and hopes to rendezvous in Peninsula State Park. General hilarity and great music ensues.
The cast, all with strong performance backgrounds and longtime ties to Let Me Be Frank Productions, includes Pat Hibbard, Frank Hemans, Tom Verbrick and David Gusloff as brothers #1 through #4 and Amy Riemer, Lisa Borley and Kasey Corrado as the three girls. Hibbard doubles on guitar, along with Dennis Panneck, guitar, Tony Pilz, keyboard, and Adam Cain, drums.
“When Two and a Half Belgians premiered at the Meyer last February,” Hermans says, “all nine brothers came from as far away as California to see it. Many of them brought their families. They range in age from 47 to 60 now, and they all loved the show.”
Six brand new Let Me Be Frank productions will play at the Meyer this year. They include: Shaken Not Stirred set in Clintonville; Real Housewives of the U.P.; Duck Creek Dynasty set in Howard and Suamico; Jail House (Green Bay Reformatory) Rock; The Activity Bus, set in Denmark; and A Frank’s Christmas. For more information, visit letmebefranks.com.
Two and a Half Belgians will play at SDCA at 7 pm on Saturday, Jan. 10, and 2 pm on Sunday, Jan. 11. General admission tickets are $22 for adults and $17 for seniors and children. The auditorium is located on the campus of the Southern Door County School District, just off Highway 57 at 2073 County DK in Brussels. For tickets, call the box office at 920.493.5979 or email [email protected]. SDCA, in collaboration with the Southern Door Community Association, invites the public to sample some of Southern Door’s finest cuisine before the Saturday night performance. For more information, call 920.493.5979.