Review: GRUMPY OLD MEN: THE MUSICAL at Elmont Library Theatre

The production runs from November 19-December 4

By: Dec. 03, 2022
Review: GRUMPY OLD MEN: THE MUSICAL at Elmont Library Theatre
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Review: GRUMPY OLD MEN: THE MUSICAL at Elmont Library Theatre Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau were one of the greatest film duos of all time whose vast film catalog features many potential musical adaptations. The Odd Couple. The Front Page. Out to Sea (definite potential). Never in my wildest dreams did I ever expect to see a musical adaptation of Grumpy Old Men, but luckily, I was able to see the Nassau County premiere production thanks to Plaza Theatricals.

Based on the 1993 hit film of the same name, John Gustafson and Max Goldman are two lifelong feuding neighbors whose rivalry intensifies when a new female neighbor moves in across the street. While the musical captures humorous aspects of the film, book writer Dan Remmes doesn't capture the heart of the piece. The book suffers from a lack of primary character development. In the original film, screenwriter Mark Steven Johnson relied on harmless pranks to amplify the feud between Gustafson and Goldman. The pranks, understandably, cannot be replicated on stage. In lieu of that, Remmes unfortunately has the men resort to extremely cantankerous attitudes and one incredibly devious act by Max Goldman; an act that in my opinion is so reprehensible it's impossible to forgive. This results in the audience having a lack of empathy for either leading man. The audience only starts warming up to Gustafson at the top of Act Interestingly enough, Remmes does provide a nice counter balance to the "grumpy old men" with some amazing, well-developed secondary characters with whom the audience attains a great affinity for. I just wish Remmes could have developed Gustafson and Goldman's characters more. In addition to the book, the score by Neil Berg and Nick Meglin, has some hits and misses. Some of the stand-out numbers included: "Your Own Home", "Life is All About Living", and "Parents and Paradise".

Luckily Plaza Theatricals and the genius that is Kevin Harrington manage to turn this lump of coal into a sparkling diamond. Plaza truly is the Broadway of Long Island. The scenic design by Joshua Warner and lighting design by Raj Budhram is Broadway caliber and award worthy. You really felt like you were transported to Wabasha, MN. The acting, once again, was superb. Bruce Rebold and Stephen Valenti were wonderfully cantankerous as Gustafson and Goldman. Last season, I had the privilege of seeing Mr. Rebold as the inspiring gentlemanly knight Don Quixote de La Mancha in Plaza's last season production of Man of La Mancha. Now seeing him play the complete polar opposite with his character of John Gustafson, you really get to see his range as an actor. Cindy Baker truly inhibits her inner Ann-Margret as Ariel Truax, the object of Gustafson and Goldman's affection. Baker and Rebold have a great scene together when they perform "The Mirror Lies", a song that truly captures the horrors and insecurities of growing older.

As I mentioned earlier, the true stars of this production are its secondary characters. Rudy Martinez, who I instantly recognized as the Season 1 winner from Food Network's Halloween Baking Championship, brings great warmth and presence to the stage with his portrayal of Chuck Barrells. Matching his warmth is Kristin Litzenberg as Chuck's cousin Punky Olander. Litzenberg brought a smile to every audience member every time she graced the stage. Aaron Robinson and Abby Docherty, both with beautiful voices, were excellent as Max's son Jacob and John's daughter Melanie. However, the piece de resistance, belongs to Robert Rudnick as Grandpa Gustafson. He stole the show and had the audience in hysterics every time he was on stage. Filling the shoes of Burgess Meredith is no easy task; Budnick aced it.

Plaza Theatricals once again puts on a great production. Only this time, they have done the impossible; they've turned a mediocre show into a potential gem. Long Island is lucky to have Plaza Theatricals and I look forward to seeing what they do next.

Plaza Theatricals production of Grumpy Old Men is playing from November 19 - December 4, 2022. Up next for their 2022-2023 season is Forever Plaid (March 18 - April 2) and Mamma Mia (May 20 - Jun 4)

You can purchase tickets to see any of these productions here: https://plazatheatrical.com/shows-events/

Review: GRUMPY OLD MEN: THE MUSICAL at Elmont Library Theatre
(l-r) Bruce Rebold; Stephen Valenti
Photo Credit: Ed Heuther
Review: GRUMPY OLD MEN: THE MUSICAL at Elmont Library Theatre
Cindy Baker
Photo Credit: Ed Heuther
Review: GRUMPY OLD MEN: THE MUSICAL at Elmont Library Theatre
(l-r) Stephen Valenti; Bruce Rebold
Photo Credit: Ed Heuther
Review: GRUMPY OLD MEN: THE MUSICAL at Elmont Library Theatre
(l-r) Stephen Valenti; Bruce Rebold
Photo Credit: Ed Heuther
Review: GRUMPY OLD MEN: THE MUSICAL at Elmont Library Theatre
(l-r) Bruce Rebold, Abby Docherty, Robert Budnick
Photo Credit: Ed Heuther



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