My Variety Review: 'The Flamingo Kid'
Snazzy vintage cars, fun ’60s fashion and cool mid-century designs make for some neat eye candy in Hartford Stage’s world premiere of the musical “The Flamingo Kid.” But nostalgia can only take you so far in a show that’s thin on character, thick with clichés, and full of — to borrow one of the script’s plentiful Yiddish words — schmaltz.
Though the musical — based on the 1984 coming-of-age film set during the summer of ’63 — has some playful music and dances, an often buoyant spirit and a colorful pastel palette, the overall effect is as predictable as a beach read. Its story, characters and conflicts are, at least at this stage of the show’s development, all too familiar.
In a coming-of-age narrative that echoes the father-son-mentor triangle in “A Bronx Tale,” this outer-borough story centers on Jeffrey Winnick (Jimmy Brewer), an 18-year-old Brooklyn teen who gets a summer job first as a parking lot attendant, then later as a cabana boy, at El Flamingo, a posh private Long Island resort catering to upwardly mobile Jews.
Soon he is drifting away from his working class parents as he becomes beguiled by gin-rummy-playing card sharp Phil Brody (Marc Kudisch), who takes the kid under his wing and introduces him to a life of fast cars, swank living and easy money. A special nod here should go to the quartet of car chassis built by BB Props/Emiliano Peres. Indeed, the show’s design elements, especially Alexander Dodge’s aquamarine-wave sets and Linda Cho’s witty nouveau-riche costumes, are retro delights.
Jeffrey’s parents Arthur and Rose (Liz Larsen and Adam Heller, solid and authentic) are, of course, concerned about their son’s changing attitude and values.