he original 1993 film, Grumpy Old Men, featured real-life friends, Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau (featured in Three Men on a Horse in 1953 at the Ogunquit Playhouse), who had already established themselves as comedic dynamite in the countless films they had collaborated on previously. What made this light-hearted romantic-comedy such a box office success was the on-screen dynamic between the two actors, who infused humor and comradery into every scene. Whether a movie or musical, one thing is true: good humor is infectious.
While a quirky love triangle is always a great starting point for any musical, what makes Grumpy Old Men the Musical so unique is its focus on an older generation of characters and their everyday relatability. Rather than focusing on youth, beauty and lightness like most musicals of today, this show contains themes of love and redemption, as pointed out by original producer of the production Jeff Gardner, layered gently beneath the quick jabs and knee-jerking jokes. Gardner happened upon the idea of bringing this movie to the stage while meandering through the video rental store and immediately knew this lovable film had major potential.
The artistic and comedic forces behind the creation of the musical recognized the opportunity to give the characters thoughts and feelings that could be expressed through song, while still staying true to the side-splitting humor at its core. The musical was a collaboration between Neil Berg (composer) and Nick Meglin (lyricist) who were colleagues at the satirical comedy magazine, MAD, as well as Dan Remmes, a notable playwright.
Nick Meglin worked as a writer and editor for MAD magazine for 30 years and had been called “the heart of the magazine” by Bill Gaines, the late founder and publisher of MAD. Nick’s quirky sense of humor and ability to wear many different hats – editor, writer, artist—lead to the expansion and prolific success of the publication, until his retirement in 2004. On June 2, 2018, Meglin died of a heart attack at the age of 82.
Neil Berg, also a former editor of MAD magazine, has produced over 1,000 Broadway concerts worldwide. As a Producer, Neil is the creator and co-producer of Neil Berg’s 100 Years of Broadway, which is now the number one Broadway touring concert in the United States, playing in over 120 cities a year for the past decade.
In the late 90s, Berg was handed a musical written by Meglin, entitled “Tim,” which was missing musical accompaniment. Upon reading the libretto, Berg was instantly inspired to quickly write a melody to accompany the lyrics to the song “Nothing More.” In fact, quick thinking, creativity and prolific content seem to be the cornerstone of this partnership. The two teamed up for their first musical debut with a new twist on an old classic, Tim and Scrooge. Nick wrote both book and lyrics and Neil composed the music, which would go on to gain both critical and public acclaim.
The first production of Grumpy Old Men the Musical opened October 13, 2011 at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre in Winnipeg. The Ogunquit Playhouse is proud to be the first U.S. premiere of the show which is bound to be a staple in the American musical theatre repertoire. After all, the show reminds us of the important lesson that life is short and hopes, dreams and goofing off are all for the young of heart.