The Scene

Engle Lane season to open with ‘Grumpy Old Men - the Musical’

Songs will add to the classic laughs between the 2 neighbors at each other’s wits

Max Goldman (Scott Harl) and John Gustafson (Gary Talsky) square up for their usual battle of words in a long standing feud in "Grumpy Old Men - the Musical" at Engle Lane Theatre in Streator.

People may be familiar with the adventures of John and Max, two elderly neighbors who have been at each other’s throats for years, but they’ll find Engle Lane Theatre’s version of “Grumpy Old Men” adds music to the laughs.

“Because it’s a musical, it makes it different than what people are used to,” said Kathy Hepner, director. “There’s still plenty of laughs, but there’s also some really cute songs I think people will enjoy - ‘Life is All About Living’ and ‘What a Way to Go’ are two of them.”

Adapted from the 1993 film, “Grumpy Old Men - The Musical” will kick off Engle Lane’s summer season in Streator with a show 2 p.m. Sunday, May 19, then a run of performances at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 21, through Friday, May 24.

The two grumpy old men are played by Gary Talsky and former Peru mayor Scott Harl. Talsky is playing the character of John Gustafson, which was famously played by Jack Lemmon, while Harl will portray Max Goldman, which was portrayed by Walter Matthau.

“So many people know ‘Grumpy Old Men,’” Harl said. “They don’t know the musical.”

Harl, 67, is a relative newcomer to the stage. “Grumpy Old Men” will be his fourth performance. He got his first taste of theater playing a corrupt mayor in the mobster comedy “Farce of Nature” at Stage 212 in La Salle. Sunday will be his first musical, and he knows it’s the occasion, because he’ll have family from out of state in attendance.

“It’s going to be a special performance, for sure,” Harl said.

Talsky is the veteran of the duo. He’s performed on stage for years, but will be returning to a musical for the first time after a hiatus. Talsky said he met Harl at a Christmas party at Richmond Hill and was happy to hear Harl had received the role of his neighbor adversary, saying he was excited to work with him.

“We want people to have a good time,” Talsky said. “Enjoy themselves and have a laugh. This is a story about old friends who spend their days fighting and they learn a valuable lesson about it all in the end.”

Hepner said some of the other classic “Grumpy Old Men” characters will be in the show. Ariel Truax, who Hepner referred to as “the sexy neighbor character,” will be performed by Kathy Missel and Grandpa Gustafson will be performed by Nik Frig.

There are some adult themes in the humor, meaning parent’s will have to have some discretion if they bring children, Hepner said. The story follows John’s daughter and Max’s son as they get to know each other, becoming romantically involved.

“There are so many fun scenes,” Hepner said.

The cast has 17 people. Jacob Goldman will be played by Ken Persky; Melanie Norton by Georgia Darby; Sandra Snyder by Marlee Reel; Chuck Barrels by Bob Philip; Punky Olander by Cyndy Brunch; Harry by Jack Schuler; Tim by Kenneth Persky Sr.; Unis by Barb Frig; Stan by Dylan Conmy; Fran by Amber Miller; Karla by Kelli Muhlstadt; Bo by Karen Austin; and Lo by Myleigh Muhlstadt. Kelly Lefler is serving as assistant director to Hepner.

Want to go?

Tickets are $22 for adults, $20 for seniors and $10 for children 12 and younger. They are available online at or through the box office. The box office is open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call 815-672-3584. The theater is located 1012 Columbus Road, Streator.

The cast of "Grumpy Old Men - the Musical" tell all about their home of Wabasha during Engle Lane Theatre's season opening show.
Ariel played by Kathy Missel makes her entrance to the fascination of the citizens of Wabasha in "Grumpy Old Men - The Musical" at Engle Lane Theatre in Streator.
Derek Barichello

Derek Barichello

Derek Barichello is the news editor for The Times in Ottawa and NewsTribune in La Salle, part of Shaw Local News Network, covering La Salle, Bureau and Putnam counties. He covers local and breaking news in the areas of government, education, business and crime and courts, among others.