Southwest Illinois Conference of Mayors

Was the presentation helpful to those attending? Absolutely.  The feedback from the audience afterwards was extremely complimentary.  Fritz’s performance on Lincoln and leadership was outstanding.  The audience at the Southwest Conference of Mayors totally enjoyed the presentation.  Fritz is an amazing Abraham Lincoln!

Southwest Illinois Conference of Mayors

CHRIS HEADY / Lincoln Journal Star

Fritz Klein can fool just about anyone. The chin, the beard, the nose, the hair, the wingspan. The way he leans back when he stands and wags his finger. How he walks into an auditorium to the beat of “Hail to the Chief,” taking tiny bows while shaking hands with constituents, giving Daniel Day-Lewis a run for his money. Dress Klein in a top hat and an 1860s suit with coattails, and he is Abraham Lincoln.

“Best I’ve ever seen,” said Susan Grace Dittman, who wrote “Abraham Lincoln’s Shining Star — the Inspiring Story of Abraham Lincoln and Nebraska.”

Standing between two guards in Union attire at Sunday’s 14th annual Abraham Lincoln Birthday Celebration at Lincoln Southwest, Klein did what the 16th President of the United States always did: He told stories.

“When I was elected four years ago…You know, my mother…In fact, there’s a story about that…”

Klein, who has been acting since 1970 and playing Lincoln exclusively since 1980, says sometimes he even fools himself. “Once in a while,” Klein says, “I do feel like I have some presidential authority. Once in a while, there’s a glimmer. ”While living in Hawaii in 1976, Klein initially turned down the role of playing Lincoln in a community play. “But a professional makeup artist said to me, ‘Let me show you what we can do with you,’” Klein said. Since that first performance, Klein has portrayed Lincoln in feature films in both the U.S. and in Europe, and can count on one hand how many roles he’s turned down, including the most recent: “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.”

Klein and his family moved to the Continental U.S. in 1980, wanting to settle down in a place where tourism would play a big role in the community. The perfect fit was Springfield, Ill., where Klein portrays Lincoln at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, convincing thousands of what he himself first had to be convinced.

To assume the part in the beginning, he read a Benjamin B. Thomas biography of Lincoln and then Lincoln’s manuscripts. “I’ve learned to know and connect with him as an individual,” Klein said, adding he has a “substantial library” now of books dedicated to Lincoln.

Those studies have made his performance of Lincoln so believable that even if a question from the floor is asked at random, like why Nebraska is mentioned 13 times more than Kansas in the Kansas-Nebraska Act, Klein can give you Lincoln’s words on the subject. “Nebraska’s territory goes all the way up to Canada, you see …” he begins, giving a metaphor for how Nebraska was a pie and Kansas was but a mere slice, ending with an eloquent, “Did I sufficiently answer your question, sir?”

“Lincoln had the biggest impact on Nebraska as a president than anyone else has since,” Dittman said. And other places, too.

“We live in a time where we need true heroes,” Klein said. “Lincoln was an amazing man, a true hero.”

CHRIS HEADY / Lincoln Journal Star

Morton Community Bank’s Hometown Community Travelers Travel Club

” ‘President-elect’ Lincoln was most entertaining . . humorous, modest and informative. Absolutely in period.” Morton Community Bank’s Hometown Community Travelers Travel Club October, 2013 luncheon at Jackson Truss Cover Bridge near Greenup, Illinois, after their visit to Lincoln’s mother’s home in Lerna, Illinois.

On October 1, forty-five members of Morton Community Bank’s Travel Club, Hometown Community Travelers left Morton on a Mystery Trip. The club’s Co-Travel Directors, Alison and Doug Robinson, had a real surprise for them. Their first stop was the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site near Lerna, Illinois. It was to this site Abraham Lincoln made several trips, the last in 1861, as President-elect, to make arrangements for the care of his step-mother, Sara, before leaving for Washington to be sworn in as our 16th President.

Following this stop, the group proceeded to the Cumberland County Covered Bridge just west of Greenup, IL, where a local Greenup caterer, Michael Saathoff, had tables and a picnic lunch set up on decking adjacent to the bridge. Just as the hungry travelers began to go through the buffet line, the group seemed to be ‘swept into a time warp,’ as President-elect Lincoln came strolling along the road on the way to see his mother.

Seeing him, Doug called over to Mr. Lincoln, asking him to join them and Mr. Lincoln readily agreed. While he graciously declined an offer to join the group for lunch, stating: “my mother expects me to arrive with a healthy appetite,” Mr. Lincoln spent a good bit of time visiting with them. The group learned Mr. Lincoln’s horse had earlier gone lame and he was thankful for the opportunity of stopping to rest and visit with, as he stated: “some good Republicans.” President-elect Lincoln was gracious enough to talk some about his thoughts and apprehensions about going to Washington and fielded several questions from the group, posed for some pictures and then continued on his way, at which point the group was swept back from the 1861 time warp into which it had been earlier transported.

Morton Community Bank’s Hometown Community Travelers Travel Club

A summer tourist

“… Our tour guide was fantastic and she was extremely professional, knowledgable, and make the tour exciting and educational. But my favorite part was what was waiting after the tour. Mr. Lincoln himself was standing in the back yard of the home after the tour! I wanted to take the time to say how much of an honor it was to meet this individual and how he made the trip and tour one of the best I have had. The gentleman playing Lincoln was AMAZING! He was extremely knowledgable, professional, and extremely polite. You could tell he was truly passionate about his job and the character he plays. He stood around patiently answering the many questions, taking pictures, and sharing stories. He looked exactly the part from the clothing, facial expressions, stance, voice, everything! I especially loved how he would answer questions or share stories either in character or out of character. I wish I knew his name, but I wanted to personally thank him for making the trip one to remember. He is a true asset to the facility and I hope to one day take the tour again and bring others to hear and see him. Thank you for making this an incredible tour! ”

A summer tourist at Lincoln’s home who happened upon a “History Comes Alive” program with Mr. Klein as Lincoln in the back yard

Dr. Ken Bradbury

Thirty-five years in professional and educational theatre have taught me that the prime requisite for a performer is to know his audience. Fritz Klein as Abraham Lincoln not only knows the characteristics of particular age groups and interests, but he has that magical ability to adapt his performance to varying groups without sacrificing a whit of authenticity. Within a month’s time I saw Mr. Klein hold forth for a full-length performance mesmerizing an adult crowd that included many professional historians, and then a lively audience of elementary school children. Both performances grabbed and enraptured his audience. I’ve seen (and often directed) many Lincolns over the years, but Fritz Klein has distilled our 16th President into living, breathing national treasure.”

Dr. Ken Bradbury (Educator, playwright, actor, musician, composer, and syndicated newspaper columnist.)

Wade House State Historic Site, Greenbush, Wisconsin

“Fritz Klein IS Abraham Lincoln – He exhibits all the complexity, wisdom, and great country humor that Lincoln possessed. We could not imagine a better Lincoln impersonator – our audiences spoke in raving terms about his appearance at our recent Civil War reenactment.”

Jeff Schultz, Wade House State Historic Site, Greenbush, Wisconsin

Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

” I wish I could adequately express my delight regarding your performance as Abraham Lincoln during the Indiana Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Dinner…” “Your performance was absolutely outstanding and I was completely mesmerized throughout its duration. I can also relay to you how profoundly moved our attendees were that evening. My telephone has not stopped ringing!”

Christopher LaMothe, President, Indiana Chamber of Commerce.

Peoria Riverfront Museum

“Hiring Mr. Klein is something that I will do again! He confidently delivered a program to a sold out crowd and left the audience wanting more. His talent is simply remarkable.”

Peoria Riverfront Museum

Westmer Elementary

“In the days following your performance at Westmer, I heard many favorable comments from students and teachers. We were impressed by your sensitivity to the audiences as you were able to change the direction of a story and alter inflection or volume to regain the children’s attention. Your material was appropriate for each age group, and the children enjoyed listening.”

Robert Cummins, Principal, Westmer Elementary School, New Boston Illinois.

Huntington North High School, Huntington IN

Your program is well crafted for all audiences!  Our high school students raved about the presentation and how they really think of you as our actual president!

Daniel S. Baker
Music Department
Huntington North High School