Circa ’21 Dinner Playhouse, Rock Island, is bringing back a popular production in its latest, “Grumpy Old Men: The Musical.”

Based on the hit movie of the same name, the fighting and frolicking musical opens this week. Running through May 6, this audience favorite was called “sometimes touching, sometimes raucous, and at all times enticing” by the City Journal-Tribune.

“Grumpy Old Men” will be presented on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 5:30 p.m. and Wednesday matinées at 1:15 p.m. Pre-show entertainment featuring the theater’s wait staff, the Bootleggers, also will precede all performances.

Circa veteran Kim Vanderginst joins the new “Grumpy Old Men” production, co-starring with Brad Hauskins, left, and Tom Walljasper.

Based on the beloved 1993 movie starring Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Ann-Margret, and Burgess Meredith, the show tells the story of two aging neighbors, Max and John, who have been feuding for more than 50 years.

But when the beautiful and charming Ariel moves in across the street, the bickering neighbors’ rivalry is raised to new heights, and the musical raises the question: Can her love and compassion reunite their friendship? The answer comes in an entertainment by composer Neil Berg and lyricist Nick Meglin, that led Broadway World critic Dan Morois to state, “With a well-written, fun script laced with comic one liners, loveable characters, and a lighthearted musical score, ‘Grumpy Old Men’ exceeded all my expectations.”

Circa ’21 was just the second theater in the nation to stage it when it played here in 2019 (it premiered in Maine in 2018). Brad Hauskins was in that Circa production, but not this part (as John), and Tom Walljasper is reprising his role as Max.

The Circa cast features (L-R) Tom Walljasper, John Payonk, Brad Hauskins, and Janos Horvath.

“It’s great; I had the opportunity to step back and watch the character before I took it on,” Hauskins said Wednesday of the 2019 go-round. “It’s kind of surreal. I’m enjoying it.”

Hauskins has never seen the 1993 film, and Walljasper saw it when it first came out.

“You don’t want to go in and play Jack Lemmon, playing John Gustafson,” Hauskins said. “You approach it as your particular take on it, but you also have to respect that a lot of people are coming to see the show that loved the movie.  You don’t want to make every opposite choice I can and be completely different.”

“I’m remembering what our John did the last time, and I’ll steal ‘em. I’m not too proud,” he said.

Why bring it back already?

The show did really well at Circa the first time and that’s why it’s being brought back after just four years, Hauskins said, comparing it to other audience faves, the “Church Basement Ladies” musicals.

Kim Vanderginst (formerly Kurtenbach) is a popular Circa veteran as well, and she plays lovely Ariel.

Hauskins, Vanderginst and Walljasper go for a ride in the new show.

“It’s two dudes who have known each other since they were kids, and a while back, an interesting dichotomy is wedged into their relationship – a woman,” Walljasper said.

Being a stage musical, it adds “some bouncy, vaudeville-esque feeling that it wants to have,” he said.

“And it allows the ensemble to express themselves in some really fun ways,” Hauskins said. “This is a great show to celebrate all the characters that surround these two guys. The music is really where they get to express themselves the most.”

Walljasper said “Grumpy” is really a “character actor’s show.”

“It’s an old actors’ show,” Hauskins responded.

Circa vets Brad Hauskins, left, and Tom Walljasper in the new “Grumpy” production.

Directing “Grumpy Old Men” is Curt Wollan, a Circa veteran of many years whose previous musical comedies for the venue include “Ring of Fire,” “Southern Crossroads,” The Church Basement Ladies in “You Smell Barn” and the 2019 production of “Grumpy Old Men.”

Gifted area musician Ron May serves as music director, having also lent his talents to such recent Circa ’21 productions as “We Will Rock You,” Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” and Disney’s “Beauty & the Beast.”

The full grumpy old crew at Circa ’21, 1828 3rd Ave., Rock Island.

Additional members of the “Grumpy” cast include Derrick Bertram, Elsa Besler, Kim Bogus, Sydney Dexter, Bradley Heinrichs, Janos Horvath, Doug Kutzli, Anthony Milfelt, Andrea Moore, John Payonk, Savannah Strandin, Tristan Tapscott and Shelley Walljasper.

How to get tickets

Tickets are $60.55 for the evening dinner-and-show productions and $53.73 for the matinées, available through the Circa ’21 ticket office at 1828 3rd Ave., Rock Island or by calling 309-786-7733, ext. 2.