By Kenneth Jones
10 Oct 2011
The Minnesota-set musical premieres north of the border at the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, in Winnipeg, where it officially opens Oct. 13 for a run to Nov. 5. Broadway's Ken Page plays Chuck, the owner of a bait shop.
Director Bill Castellino (Dr. Radio and Cagney at Florida Stage, Tarzan at North Shore Music Theatre, Jolson at the Winter Garden in Los Angeles) shepherded the script (by Dan Remmes) and score (by composer Neil Berg and lyricist Nick Meglin) to its current production-ready status. (Glenn Casale directed earlier starry developmental readings, of which Schuck was a part.)
Castellino told Playbill.com that the script expands on the screenplay and fleshes out additional characters; we now get a more vivid view of the townspeople of Wabasha, MN, he said.
Grumpy Old Men plays the John Hirsch Theatre, the mainstage of the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre.
The rest of the company is drawn from the Canadian acting community. The cast also includes Frank Adamson as "Grandpa" Gustafson; Debbie Maslowsky as Unis; DeAnn deGruijter as Sandra Snyder; Kimberley Rampersad as Karla/Nurse; Michelle Fisk as Punky Barrels; Timothy Gledhill as Lo & Others; Lisa Horner as Fran; Cailin Stadnyk as Melanie Norton; Douglas E. Hughes as Tim; Justin Stadnyk as Bo and Others; Gerald Isaac as Harry; Mark Weatherley as Stan; and Cameron MacDuffee as Jacob Goldman.
Jeff Gardner and Ken Denison are the show's future commercial producers.
Here's how Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre characterizes the project: "What's there to be grumpy about in Wabasha, Minnesota? There's lots of ice, ton of fish and a gorgeous new neighbor for long-time rivals John [played by Rubinstein] and Max [played by Schuck] to fight over. Criticized by their children for not embracing change, these two aging co-curmudgeons stand firm, content to fuel the fire of their decades-long feud. But, like it or not, everything is about to change in Wabasha. A story about the true nature of friendship and an appreciation of life's fragility, this poignant and laugh-out-loud musical stays true to the double entendres and small-town feel of the beloved feature film."
"Working with seasoned vets like John Rubinstein, John Schuck, Susan Anton and Ken Page is amazing," director Castellino told Playbill.com. "Amongst us, we have centuries of experience to draw upon. These are real 'people of the theatre' — dedicated theatre professionals who love and understand the form. These actors make clever and imaginative choices, ask thoughtful and provocative questions, and know how to deliver a song, land a joke, and strike an emotional chord. I am lucky to be in the room with them."<P>
The creative team also includes set designer Douglas Paraschuk, costume designer Judith Bowden, lighting designer Scott Henderson, sound designer John Bent Jr., video creator Deco Dawson, assistant director Ray Strachan, New York casting director Dave Clemmons, stage manager Evan R. Klassen, assistant stage managers Sheena Sanderson and Leslie Sidley and apprentice stage managers Jessica
Freundl and Andrew Luczenczyn.
Schuck has made a good living appearing in productions of Annie over the years, and is remembered for playing a cop on TV's "McMillan & Wife" in the 1970s. Rubinstein starred as the original Pippin and won the Best Actor Tony Award for Children of a Lesser God in 1980. He was also a star of the TV series "Family" from 1976-80. Page is a Drama Desk Award winner for Ain't Misbehavin' and also starred in Cats, The Wiz and more. Anton, a former Miss California, is an actress and singer known for her work in Las Vegas (Radio City Music Hall Spectacular at the Flamingo and on tour) and on Broadway (The Will Rogers Follies) and regionally (Hollywood Bowl's Hairspray).