Thursday, July 11, 2013

"Through Curly's Eyes"

Opening July 19, we have a new entry into the "stage and screen" category: "Through Curly's Eyes", from Green Bay's Let Me Be Frank Productions. As a writer and theatrical producer myself, I'm very intrigued about the dramatic possibilities of the team's earliest days.

The same company, you might remember, supplies actors for trolley tours of the Packers Heritage Trail around Green Bay.

The photo of three Packers in their sepia-toned blues is a nice image, even if the text could use some work (there's no apostrophe in "Packers", fellows).

Unfortunately, information about "Through Curly's Eyes" is scant and somewhat contradictory online. The show is described on its ticket service page this way:
A little bit of history and a lot of laughs are the best ways to describe this Let Me Be Frank show. Learn about the Pack and take the tour in downtown Green Bay from 1919 to 1950. But this isn't just any tour - it's through Curly's eyes! Join us for this all-original show with original songs written by Cliff Christl!
Songs by Cliff Christl, the former Green Bay Press-Gazette and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writer who covered the Packers from 1974-2007? Creator of the Packers Heritage Trail? Count me in!

I think they might mean the "all-original show" is written by Cliff Christl, with some original songs added in. The production company's site describes it this way:
Nobody really knew Curly Lambeau, but he is probably the best known person from Green Bay. He started the franchise and the stadium is named after him. Known as a ladies man and a braggart, Let me be Franks takes you back to the 1932 season and the great stories of Cliff Christl. You will laugh and remember the glory days before Lombardi. July 19th through August 17th at the Meyer Theatre!
Also on the company's site, but on the "Show Schedule" page, we have this summary:
Nicolet Bank and Let me be Franks present a little bit of history and a lot of laughs with the new musical about Curly Lambeau. Learn about the Pack and take a tour of downtown Green Bay and the Packers from 1932-1934. But this isn't just any tour – it’s through Curly’s eyes! Join us for this all-original show with stories from Cliff Christl!
So now we have three different settings: '1919 to 1950", "the 1932 season" and "1932-1934". It's also a bit hazy as to how Cliff Christl and the Packers Heritage Trail factor into this production. Christl may have written the show or it may just be based on his stories. The show is branded with the trail's name over the title, and the press materials lean heavily on the word "tour", but they don't seem to have anything in common other than the actors they've already been using as guides. "Tour" here seems more likely to have the more poetic "stroll-through-history" meaning than the literal trolley jaunts. We could really use a proper press release to clear this up.

Think of it, though: site-specific/environmental theatre, with historical scenes performed at the actual locations where the events happened! Sounds like fun, but I don't think that's what they have in store.

This report in the Green Bay Press-Gazette might clear it up:
Packers history explored through new musical

For Let Me Be Frank Productions' latest show, "The Packers Heritage Trail: Through Curly’s Eyes," the group travels all the way back to the 1932 season of the Green Bay Packers and Curly Lambeau.

Set to popular tunes from the '40s and '50s, the musical begins in the old Hagemeister Park where Curly is declaring to his future wife that he’ll conquer the world, and continues along the story of the fund-lacking Packers chasing a title, just trying to stay financially afloat.

In addition to the show, Let Me Be Frank and C&M Marketing are putting together trolley tours of the Packers Heritage Trail hosted by one of the cast members.
That seems to indicate that the musical at the Meyer Theatre is a separate project, related only by the actors the two have in common.

The same Press-Gazette offers this publicity photo, giving us a better look at the uniforms.

That's definitely not the 1932 uniform: in 1932, the Packers were wearing plain blue jerseys as seen at right (with large numbers on the back). They do look like pretty decent reproductions of the Packers' 1929-30 uniforms, made famous via the throwback uniforms worn in 2000 and in 2011 and which will be revived this season. Can't really fault the costume designer for going with the more distinctive numbered jerseys, even if they aren't strictly period.

Looking again at Let Me Be Frank Productions's site, we can piece together some information on the cast, at least those three pictured above. Perhaps the numbers can also give us some insight into which characters might make appearances.

That's company founder and namesake Frank Hermans as Curly Lambeau in the center. He looks good in the part, too. Although Lambeau wore many numbers during his playing career (and remains so far the only man to wear #1), 20 was his number in 1929. Lambeau retired after the 1930 season.

On the right is Jack Janowicz. I don't know who he's playing; number 14 was issued to back Paul Fitzgibbon in 1932, although today it's most remembered for legend Don Hutson, who wore it from 1935 through 1945 and for whom it was retired in 1951.

The other player is played by Paul Evansen, although I can't make out his number. Perhaps he's playing Johnny "Blood" McNally (who wore #20 in '32); by all accounts Johnny Blood was a colorful character to justify a musical of his own life, and should at least feature prominently in a show about those Big Bay Blues Glory Days.

"Through Curly's Eyes" runs July 19th through August 17th at the Meyer Theatre in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Tickets are available at the Resch Center box office, at or by calling 1-800-895-0071.

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