Critically acclaimed Aussie actors Shane Jacobson and Todd McKenney will star in Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple. Since the two personalities met several years ago on the Channel Seven television series The Real Full Monty, Jacobson and McKenney have worked together in multiple productions. The friends have appeared side by side in Mates on a Mission and The All New Monty, and in the stage productions of Hairspray and The Rocky Horror Show.
Viewed as the typical “chalk and cheese” pair, whilst also being best mates and constant collaborators, Jacobson and Mckenney now have the chance to prove themselves as the ultimate odd couple. The hilarious Tony Award-winning play by Simon will be presented at the Comedy Theatre Melbourne and the Theatre Royal Sydney, 2024, and is sure to have audiences rolling in the aisles.
The Odd Couple premiered on Broadway at Plymouth Theatre in March 1965, and ran for 16 months. The performance starred Walter Matthau and Art Carney as the comedic couple, Oscar Madison and Felix Ungar. Matthau won a Tony Award for Best Actor, and the production was nominated for Best Play.
Since its debut, the play about friendship, divorce, and misunderstandings has been adapted a number of times for film and television. Starring Matthau again as Oscar with Jack Lemmon as a new Felix, The Odd Couple movie was filmed in 1968. Following the same storyline as Simon’s play, Felix separates from his wife and moves in with his best friend Oscar, another recent divorcee. Even though the pair are inseparable, Oscar and Felix’s ideas of lifestyles and housekeeping differ greatly. Staying true to the original Broadway production, most dialogue and set design remains the same in the film, with very little change.
In 1970, the story was remade for television with Jack Klugman as the sloppy sportswriter Oscar, and Tony Randall as the neat freak Felix. The show was a hit, with both Klugman and Randall earning Emmy Awards for their portrayals of the famous odd couple. The TV show broadcast for five years, with the final episode released in 1975.
Along the way, there have been several re-creations and spin-offs of The Odd Couple. These productions include a female version and an animal cartoon version of the narrative, depicting a neat cat and messy dog. In 2015, a new The Odd Couple TV series was released, with small tweaks and updates made to the original characters.
With a history of speculation surrounding Felix’s character, the latest series hints at Felix’s ‘queerness’, catering to broader audiences and contributing to a cultural progression. Looking back at the older film and TV series, Felix can still be interpreted as a gay man, due to subtle personality traits and his “clean” stereotype.
In the Australian stage production of The Odd Couple, it will be exciting to see how Jacobson and McKenney spin Simon’s much loved characters to make Oscar and Felix their own. A strong anticipation awaits the show as audiences secure their tickets to view the Aussie icons’ on-stage chemistry once again.