Review: ‘Grumpy Old Men: The Musical'

BY: Michael Woody
last updated 09/27/2023
Review: ‘Grumpy Old Men: The Musical'

Mike Woody reviews ‘Grumpy Old Men: The Musical' at La Comedia Dinner Theatre

Review: ‘Grumpy Old Men: The Musical'

It features more senior citizens (and insults) than the 2024 Presidential election, more songs than a Taylor Swift concert (ok, not exactly) and more laughs than a modern day sitcom. ‘Grumpy Old Men: The Musical’ has all the makings of a great show and utilizes them for an exceptional performance. Though I don’t consider myself grumpy (my family might disagree) nor old, despite often being mistaken for a grandpa, I enjoyed visiting Wabasha and yearn to go back (or at least re-watch the movie).

It’s not a musical in which the songs standout and you rush out to buy…err download the soundtrack. The dialogue and characters are the shining stars. Maybe I’m more like a grumpy old man than I think, because my memory is faint when it comes to the 1993 film, but I’m fairly the confident the plot is similar. Feuding neighbors John Gustafson and Max Goldman have nothing nice to say to each other. The cantankerous fishing buddies reel in lots of laughs with their name calling, including a real whopper when a beautiful woman moves in across the street. They both put their their bait to the test in an attempt to ‘hook her. 

Even John (Dan Embree) & Max (David Shough) would have to complement each other on their performances. Embree is as charming as he is mischievous as John, who has a costly secret to hide. Whether playing the piano or sparring jabs with Max, Embree is in perfect tune. His counterpart, Shough is equally spot on. It’s a stand-out performance of such measurable proportions that Shough can hang his hat on.

At the center of their latest round of hostility is Ariel, the artsy newest resident of Wabasha, with a most unique umbrella holder, played perfectly by the Queen of Lacomedia, Karie-Lee Sutherland. Sutherland excels with every role, but Ariel is the type she plays best…a sexy vixen that keeps Max & John glued to their windows with binoculars. 

The show really benefits from a strong supporting cast, which provides a true sense of community. The quirky people of Wabasha include, Chuck (John Dorney) as the bait shop owner. Dorney last appeared on La Comedia’s stage in ‘Phantom’ about a year and a half ago, to his credit, I still remember him. Mind you, I could qualify as a grumpy old man! Dorney has a magnetizing stage presence. His role here is equally as memorable and will be stored away in my lock box. His niece, the ditzy Punky (Meghan Slowik), is challenged geographically and with all other topics. Slowik however plays a mean imaginary ukulele and yodels.

Through snow, hail and paralyzing injuries the accident prone Harry (Don Hart), always completes his mail route. He also delivers more laughs than packages Amazon leaves at my door each week, and that’s a lot. 

Frequent and longtime visitors of La Comedia are familiar with Charlie Goetz, a legend who made his first appearance at the dinner theater in the 1970’s. Perhaps Goetz is recently best known for his dignified portrayal of General Waverly in multiple productions of ‘White Christmas.’ The sign of a good actor is being able to stretch themselves, in that case Goetz has the flexibility of a contortionist. It’s worth the price of admission alone to see Goetz as never before as the dirty old man, Grandpa Gustafson. His one-liners might make some people blush, but then turn even redder in the face from laughter. The double entendres are plentiful, while other naughty nuggets are more plain spoken. 

The talented cast also includes Dana Embree as an IRS agent who lurks in the shadows, Julie McNamara as Melanie (John’s daughter) and Mitch Holland as Jacob (Max’s son). Melanie and Jacob find themselves entangled together while each struggling to face the truth. Colin Cranstoun is a pastor, will there nuptials to perform? Patrick Phillip Becker plays a husband whose wife, Kathryn McCarty finishes all of his sentences. Rachel Villalon never goes far without coffee to sell and Kelsey Wilson adds to the beauty of Wabasha with a bright smile. Last but certainly not least is an uncredited stagehand who has appeared in the last two shows.

‘Grumpy Old Men: The Musical’ is guaranteed to entertain.

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