Based on a film starring Jack Lemmon, Walther Matthau and Ann-Margret that hit movie theaters 25 years ago, Grumpy Old Men the Musicalis currently playing at the Ogunquit Playhouse in what is touted as the US premiere of the production.
I always get nervous with premiere productions. It usually means that a script is still being tweaked and perfected in hopes of becoming a standard bearer in the theater world archives. The premiere launches the effort, often with a few shortcomings, though there is anticipation that it will reach full potential in the future.
Grumpy Old Men the Musical hits the mark right from the start; there’s no shortcomings here. With a well written fun script, laced with comic one liners, loveable characters, and a lighthearted musical score, Grumpy Old Men exceeded all my expectations.
The action is set in Wabasha, Wisconsin (think Prairie Home Companion) where two aging neighbors, Max (Ed Dixon) and John (Mark Jacoby), have been feuding for more than fifty years over the fact that John once wooed a girlfriend away from Max. That’s what particularly makes Max grumpy as he blurts out greetings to John like, “Good morning, dickhead,” prompting the quick response, “Hello, moron.” They share other insults: “You have a face that makes onions cry.” “The lifeguard was off duty when you jumped into the gene pool.” There’s even a reference to Viagra falls. (Insert your own joke here.)
This show was penned by Dan Remmes, with music by Neil Berg and lyrics by Nick Meglin (who attended a table read of the show before he recently passed at the age of 82.) Director for the Ogunquit production is Matt Lenz.
Everything works extraordinarily well in this premiere production. The story is fun and the characters lively, engaging, and memorable. While the music has no stand out tune, the audience is treated to a great mix of styles.
The number, I Like the Way Things Are, is a thoughtful look at the two old friends who are well set in their ways while the tune, Your Own Home, is a pleasant look at how a house becomes a home by the people who live in it.
While Grumpy Old Men first debuted in a production in Canada in 2011 and never gained traction on the theater scene, I suspect that this new American version might prevail better than its predecessor. It has every element of a solid musical that could easily become a favorite of theaters everywhere from community productions to professional companies. There are great roles for eccentric characters, young lovers, and, of course, two grumpy old men.
Don’t miss this premiere of Grumpy Old Men the Musical. You will be rewarded with a great evening of theater on a stage that overflows with talent.