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August 14, 2018

Boston & Beyond's Susan Mulford reviews Ogunquit Playhouse' "Grumpy Old Men"

This delightfully funny and very sweet musical based on the classic 1992 Warner Brothers film starring Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau and Ann-Margret is an entertaining inspiration for anyone over 50 or anyone who will eventually reach that landmark age, despite every hope and good intention to remain somewhere comfortably between age 20 and 40. Directed by noted Broadway veteran Matt Lenz, written by actor, award-winning writer, and screenplay writer, Dan Remmes, with music by award-winning composer and lyricist, Neil Berg and lyrics by the late (June/2018 at age 82), award-winning lyricist and editor of MAD Magazine, Nick Meglin, the story follows two aging friends that have known each other since childhood but have been feuding neighbors for 50 year. Max Goldman, played by writer, composer and noted Broadway actor, Ed Dixon (turns 70 this Sept. 2nd) and John Gustafson played by multiple Broadway award-nominee Mark Jacoby (age 71).

Both are consistently miserable from day to day, just counting joyless time in the remote and freezing town of Wabasha, Minnesota... all the while John's dad, the 91 year old Grandpa Gustafson, portrayed by actor, singer and musician, Hal Linden (age 87) (who boasts an ongoing 70 year career in the theatre), futilely regales them with his positive philosophy about life as he tells his son to, "Throw away your watch!" and with his song, that he delivers pitch perfect and melodiously, that counsels the others that, "Life is all about living.... Cause tomorrow you may find your name across the obit page!" The message falls on deaf ears until the beautiful and charming Ariel Truax, played by Broadway's Leslie Stevens (age 54), moves in across the street, which heats up the rivalry to all new levels! While the "boys" fighting, their good friend Chuck Barrels, played by Ogunquit veteran and multi-award-winning nominee, Doug Eskew (age?... well seasoned!) jumps the gun and has dinner with Ariel first. There are some interesting sub-plots as John is relentlessly pursued by the heartless IRS agent Sandra Snyder, portrayed by Tony Award Nominee Brenda Braxton (age 62). There is also the funny Harry the Mailman who seems to suffer numerous attacks on his daily routes. He is played by Ogunquit returnee as well as seasoned Broadway and multiple Broadway tour company performer, Blake Hammond (age 55). The story is rounded out with the bit of drama that surrounds Max and John's adult children, Jacob Gordon and Melanie Norton played by noted performers Kevin Massey and Laura Woyasz.

And impossible to go un-noticed is the dynamically comical and totally brilliant, Punky Olander, played by Broadway, film, and multi-Emmy Award-winning TV actress as well as multiple Ogunquit Playhouse veteran, Sally Struthers (age 71). Her comedic timing is fabulous and her vocals are a hit! They are joined by an older ensemble cast of seven talented singers and dancers. Time has not tarnished the star quality of this stellar cast of seniors. Forgive me for publishing ages... but the story and their performance should inspire all of us to live every day to its fullest and never discount the possibility of even love popping up and surprising us. The U.S. premiere of this entertaining, for adults' only, new musical-comedy is presented by the Ogunquit Playhouse, easily located on Main St. in Ogunquit, Maine. Tickets are available online at www.ogunquitplayhouse.org.

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