“Grumpy Old Men: The Musical” Offers An Affectionate Look at Aging

September 1, 2023

Grumpy Old Men, The Musical – Courtesy of Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre. Used with permission.

When I first saw the show title, “Grumpy Old Men: The Musical,” I wasn’t particularly drawn to reviewing it because it sounded like it would be just another ageist, stereotypical comedy with lame and corny jokes about men in their senior years. But then a Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre press release I received piqued my interest, so I decided to take in the show with an open mind. Happily, I saw the production, making its Midwest premiere, Tuesday and was glad I did, not only because it was more than I expected, but I also found it charming, well-written, and certainly entertaining. Plus, the jokes and one-liners were very often hilarious, and the predictable, yet surprising plot kept my attention.

Grumpy Old Men, The Musical – Courtesy of Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre. Used with permission.

Smartly directed by Curt Wollen, the show stars Beef & Boards seasoned character actors Eddie Curry (John Gustafson) and Jeff Stockberger (Max Goldman), as well as Sarah Hund (Ariel Truax), Jacob Butler (Jacob Goldman), Logan Hill (Melanie Norton), Devan Mathias (Sara Snyder), Douglas E. Stark (Grandpa Gustafson), Ty Stover (Chuck Barrels), and Karen Pappas (Punky Barrels), many of whom are my favorite performers.

Based on the 1993 film starring Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, and Ann-Margret, the stage adaptation, with book by Dan Remmes, music by Neil Berg, and lyrics by Nick Meglin, follows the antics of Max and John, aging neighbors who have been feuding for most of their lives. Energized by their mutual affection for Ariel, their new neighbor across the street, who is beautiful, free-spirited, and a charming widow, the two curmudgeons compete as romantic rivals until their comical schemes eventually resolve their long-standing quarrel.

There were so many fine performances from this ensemble of actors, but those that stood out included Stover, Hund, Hill, Pappas, and Mathias. Overall, however, the entire diverse and inclusive ensemble, including the chorus, were all convincing as homespun, decent residents of their beloved Wabasha, Minnesota.

Grumpy Old Men, The Musical – Courtesy of Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre. Used with permission.

The bouncy score, though appealing, was hardly memorable, but it effectively moved the story along. Always reliable, the Beef & Boards band, led by music director Terry Woods, excelled as usual at interpreting Berg’s music. Commendable as well was Sally Scharbrough’s choreography, which nicely complimented the show’s mostly upbeat score.

First rate as well was the show’s production values. Responsible for the sentimental look and feel of the show’s world of Washaba were scenic designer extraordinaire Michael Layton (retiring after a 40-year career, which included 330 Beef & Boards productions), lighting designer Ryan Koharchik, sound designer Daniel Hesselbrock, and projection designer Joey Boos.

“Grumpy Old Men” is heartfelt, often touching, and surprisingly, even raunchy. At times the formulaic story is sentimental but enjoyable — especially for those, like me, at the age of 75, who are living out their so-called “Golden Years.” In fact, the table of eight seniors sitting next to me agreed that much of it felt very close to home. Still, others present who represented several generations, seemed equally entertained. Consequently, I highly recommend the show as a perfect family activity that’s guaranteed to please.

For tickets and information about “Grumpy Old Men: The Musical,” which runs through Oct. 1, visit beefandboards.com.


















photo: Josh Humble

About Tom

Journalist, producer, director, Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, arts administrator, TV contributor, actor, model, writer and lyricist, Tom Alvarez has had an extensive career in media and the fine arts and continues to be an enthusiastic and devoted fan of both. His passion and unique background grant him insight, access and perspective to cover, promote and review the arts in Indianapolis, Central Indiana and beyond. Follow him on social media @tomalvarezartswriter and @tomalvarez1.

Alvarez has been writing about theatre, dance, music, cinema and visual arts for 40 years. His work has appeared in the Indianapolis Star, NUVO, Indianapolis Monthly, Arts Indiana, Unite Magazine, Dance Magazine, NOTE Magazine, and Examiner.com, among many other print and online platforms. A former contributor to Across Indiana on WFYI-TV, he currently has a regular performing arts segment on WISH-TV’s Life. Style. Live!

A principal of Klein & Alvarez Productions, LLC, Alvarez co-created “Calder, The Musical” and is the managing director of Magic Thread Cabaret. As an actor-model, he has appeared in numerous TV and print ads and is represented by the Helen Wells Agency and Heyman Talent Artists Agency.

On the Aisle Team

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