Review Roundup: THE FLAMINGO KID at Hartford Stage; What Did The Critics Think?
The Flamingo Kid, inspired by the 1984 Garry Marshall coming-of-age film starring Matt Dillon, reunites Tresnjak with A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder's Tony Award-winning book writer and lyricist Robert L. Freedman. They are collaborating for the first time with the Tony Award-nominated composer Scott Frankel (Grey Gardens, War Paint).
In the summer of '63, against the wishes of his father, Brooklyn teenager Jeffrey Winnick leaves behind his blue-collar roots for an exciting job working as a cabana boy at the colorful El Flamingo - a posh private club on Long Island. There, Jeffrey meets Carla, a forward-thinking young woman from California. The music, the romance, and the beach are magical - until tensions grow between father and son when a slick club member takes Jeffrey under his wing.
Jimmy Brewer (Motherfreakinghood, Playwrights Horizon; The Black Suits, Center Theatre Group/Kirk Douglas Theatre) was cast in the leading role of Jeffrey Winnick in The Flamingo Kid last year while still a student at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama.
Broadway veterans Adam Heller (Elf and Victor/Victoria) and Liz Larsen(Tony Award nominee for The Most Happy Fella and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical) plays Arthur and Ruth, Jeffrey's parents. Three-time Tony Award nominee Marc Kudisch (9-5, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang,and Thoroughly Modern Millie) and Olivier Award winner and Drama Desk Award nominee Lesli Margherita (Matilda the Musical, Zorro the Musical) play Phil and Phyllis Brody, the affluent couple who frequent the El Flamingo Club. Samantha Massell (Fiddler on the Roof-Revival, Broadway; Rags, Goodspeed Opera House-Winner, CT Critics Circle Best Actress) plays their niece, Carla.
In addition to Tresnjak, Freedman and Frankel, the creative team includes Tony Award-nominated Choreographer Denis Jones (Holiday Inn, the New Irving Berlin Musical; Tootsie); Tony Award-nominated Set Designer Alexander Dodge (A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, Hartford Stage and Broadway); Tony Award-winning Costume Designer Linda Cho (A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, Hartford Stage and Broadway); Lighting Designer Philip Rosenberg (A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, Hartford Stage and Broadway); Drama Desk Award-nominated Sound Designer Peter Hylenski (Anastasia, Hartford Stage and Broadway); Drama Desk Award-winning Projection Designer Aaron Rhyne (Anastasia, Hartford Stage and Broadway); Music DirectorThomas Murray (Anastasia, Hartford Stage and Broadway); Orchestrations by Tony Award winner Bruce Coughlin (The Light in the Piazza); Drama Desk Award-winning Hair Designer Charles G. LaPointe (SpongeBob SquarePants, Broadway); Make-Up Designer Joya Giambrone (The Cher Show-Associate Designer, Broadway); Fight Choreographer Thomas Schall (89 Broadway credits, including King Lear and Network); Associate Choreographer Robbie Roby (The Little Mermaid-National Tour); and Assistant Music Director Paul Staroba (My Fair Lady-Revival, Broadway). Composer Scott Frankelwill provide the dance and vocal arrangements.
Let's see what the critics have to say!
The Flamingo Kid Reviews
Jesse Green, NY Times: The scenes of nouveau riche Jewish life at the club (where "boys can be boys" and "we pretend to be goys") are just as cliché-ridden, but at least these clichés are sparkly and engaging. Phil's numbers, including one called "Rockaway Rumba," really pop, with choreography by Denis Jones bringing them to full-stage life. And because the glibness of the dialogue matches that of the character, there's a feeling of momentary pleasurable alignment whenever Mr. Kudisch is speaking.
Nancy Sasso Janis, Patch: The production easily bounces between the sun-drenched Long Island beach and the gritty Brooklyn neighborhood. The set designed by Tony Award-nominated Alexander Dodge (GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE) features all of the usual Hartford Stage bells and whistles; halves of period cars slide gently on the stage and the kitchen of Jeffrey's home pieces together from the wings. I loved the working seesaw. Linda Cho, who won a Tony for the costume design for GENTLEMAN'S GUIDE, brings the characters back to the very colorful early sixties. Charles G. LaPointe was in charge of the excellent wig and hair design.
Joseph Harrison, BroadwayWorld: Overall, THE FLAMINGO KID is an exciting and extremely satisfying evening of theatre. It is a thrill to watch, especially knowing you are witnessing the premiere of something that could have a great future ahead of it. Don't miss your chance to see this excellent production at Hartford Stage!
Bob Verini, NY Stage Review: The Flamingo Kid, a splashy coming-of-age crowd pleaser at Hartford Stage, is really The Wizard of Oz done in neon pink and blue, not the worst role model a pop musical could draw upon. As paced by outgoing artistic director Darko Tresnjak, the fun rarely flags, though neither does an uneasy sense that the story is just this side of stale, and that the show's dabbling in social commentary may be writing thematic checks its dramaturgy can't cash.
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