Grumpy Old Men Review – Love is the Fountain of Youth

Mark Jacoby, Ken Page, and Gregory North in GRUMPY OLD MEN - Photo by Jason Niedle

The 1993 film of the same name proved to be the surprise box office smash hit of the year. A cheerful holiday film about two irascible but lovable old codgers who enjoy nothing better than throwing insults at and playing mean practical joke on each other, GRUMPY OLD MEN starred the popular acting pair, Jack Lemon and Walter Matthau. The female lead was the perennially sexy Ann-Margret. The motion picture was so popular that it inspired a sequel with the same actors, “Grumpy Old Men 2.” “Grumpy Old Men” was a hugely successful film just waiting to be set to music, a task ultimately accomplished by Neil Berg (music) and Nick Meglin (lyrics) from the book by Dan Remmes.

Gregory North, Ken Page, Hal Linden, and Mark Jacoby – Photo by Jason Niedle

In its West Coast premiere, GRUMPY OLD MEN, the Musical has an all-star cast including Hal Linden, Ken Page, and Cathy Rigby. And what are those old, grumpy guys doing now? They’re still hurling insults at each other, and they’re having the time of their lives just hating each other. It seems that John Gustafson (Mark Jacoby) and Max Goldman (Gregory North) both fell in love with the same young lady years ago. The rivalry culminated in John’s winning Mae’s hand, and Max never forgot it even after he married “the best woman in the whole wide world.” Now widowed, Max still gets his kicks from keeping that old rivalry with divorced John going. Then something happens which changes the rules of the game.

Leslie Stevens (center) in the GRUMPY OLD MEN company – Photo by Jason Niedle

Into their small town in Minnesota moves the beautiful perky college professor Ariel Truax (Leslie Stevens). She just happens to be a widow and immediately attracts the attention of these two grumpy old guys. And the game is on. Again. For the love of the same woman. It doesn’t help matters that IRS is after John for back taxes. Directed by Matt Lenz with musical direction by Benet Braun, GRUMPY OLD MEN takes off in song and dance.

Leslie Stevens and Ken Page – Photo by Jason Niedle

Kudos to Michael Carnahan’s scenic design which competently bridges the gap between simple sets and tricky scenes, including an ice fishing moment literally frozen in time. Dustin Cross’ costumes set the right note, as do Steven Young’s lighting and Josh Bessom’s sound. Michele Lynch’s choreography keeps those toes tapping. The entire production team works overtime to transport a very chilly Minnesota to sunny Southern California.

Fatima El-Bashir, Leslie Stevens, Cathy Rigby, Ken Page, and Heather Jane Rolff – Photo by Jason Niedle

GRUMPY OLD MEN is a pleasant, feel-good musical which will bring a smile to each face in the audience. Characters are sweet and lovable, and the music is upbeat and cheery. Even with some slightly raunchy scenes, this is definitely a charming show for the family (PG, please). It’s also a delightful preview of the coming holiday season.

Gregory North and Mark Jacoby (center) with GRUMPY OLD MEN company – Photo by Jason Niedle

GRUMPY OLD MEN, the Musical runs through October 13, 2019, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, at 8 p.m. on Fridays,, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. on Sundays (no performance on Saturday 9/21 at 2 p.m.; ASL-interpreted performance on Saturday, 10/12 at 2 p.m.) La Mirada Theatre for the Performing Arts is located at 14900 La Mirada Blvd., La Mirada, CA. Tickets range from $20 to $84, with student, senior, and group discounts available. For information and reservations, call 562-944-9801 or go online.

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