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A CurtainUp Connecticut Review
Flamingo Kid

I've been thinking. I may not be needing college.—Jeffrey

You may not be needing college? What may you be needing?— Arthur

Jeffrey: The best training for life is life. I'm thinking about going into sales.—Jeffrey
Flamingo Kid
(L-R) Adam Heller, Liz Larsen, Jimmy Brewer
It was said about TV's Seinfeld that it was a show about nothing. That wasn't quite true, of course, but the label stuck. Now it may be said, too, about The Flamingo Kid, having its world premiere at Hartford Stage— unless you count familiar tropes about father-son conflicts and coming-of-age.

Musicalizing the 1984 film that starred Matt Dillon as a teen on the cusp of manhood, the stage transformation is good-natured and lively but bland and uninvolving. Hartford's artistic director Darko Tresnjak's farewell production obviously has its eye on Broadway, following the path of the theater's A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder and Anastasia.(Gentleman's Guide review & Anastasia review)

Whether this lightweight Flamingo can make it in New York is problematical, although it looks expensive. Alexander Dodge's scenic design, Philip Rosenberg's lighting, Linda Cho's costumes, Peter Hylenski's sound and Aaron Rhyne's projection design are top-notch.

Jeffrey Winnick (Jimmy Brewer) is a Jewish teen living in Brooklyn with his working-class plumber father Arthur (Adam Heller) and sympathetic mother Ruth (Liz Larsen). Friends take Jimmy to El Flamingo, a Long Island resort where he eventually works as, first, a parking attendant, then a cabana boy, earning big tips from admiring yentas and putting his gin rummy skills to gainful use. (The club was founded by and for Jews since other such clubs were restricted.)

Jimmy falls for the angelic Karla Samuels (Samantha Massell) who's visiting from California and staying with gin rummy champ, the big shot Phil Brody (Mark Kudisch), his bored wife Phyllis (Lesli Margherita) and their daughter Joyce (Lindsey Brett Carothers).

Jeffrey, in thrall to Phil, is tempted by an offer to become a salesman at Phil's car dealership. Pitting his new-found hero against his hard-working father also allows Jeffrey a Hobson's Choice between becoming a ladder-climbing salesman or college student.

Brewer's Jeffrey is attractive though neither sensuous or dangerous. As Karla, the laid-back Massell finds the character's pragmatic approach to life, while Margherita is a show-stealing hoot as Phyllis and Kudisch hams it up as husband Phil. Omar Lopez-Cepero is very funny as an egotistical rhumba instructor, with Heller and Larsen adding gravitas as Jeffrey's parents. His angry "This is My House" and her plaintive "A Mother Knows" are highlights.

With book and lyrics by Robert L. Freedman and music by Scott Frankel, The Flamingo Kid ambles its way through the two-and-a-half hour evening. Both Tresnjak's direction and Denis Jones' choreography are zestful. Many numbers hit their targets: "Another Summer Day is Brooklyn," "Never Met a Boy Like You," "Rockaway Rhumba" and "The Cookie Crumbles" in particular.

Yet, despite glancing mentions of The Feminine Mystique and the Cuban missile crisis, the show is stubbornly insular, safe and rather pointless.

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The Flamingo Kid
Book and Lyrics by Robert L. Freedman
Music by Scott Frankel
Choreographed by Denis Jones
Directed by Darko Tresnjak
CAST: Jimmy Brewer (Jeffrey Winnick), Gregory Rodriguez (Leo, Parking Attendant, Marvin), Ken Krugman (Mr. Cartucci, Mike), Alex Wyse (Hawk), Ben Frankhauser (Steve), Liz Larsen (Ruth Winnick), Adam Heller (Arthur Winnick, Lindsey Brett Carothers (Joyce Brody), Lesli Margherita (PhyllisBrody), Marc Kudish (Phil Brody), Stuart Zagnit (Colonel Easton), Omar Lopez-Cepero (Alejandro, Lido Guy), Samantha Massell (Karla Samuels), Kathy Voytko (Mrs. Bakaleinikoff), Michael Hartung (Neal, Irv, Alter Kocker Chorus, Lido Guy), Price Waldman (Cy, Alter Kocker Chorus, Dr. Ganz, Uncle Jack), Steve Routman (Morty, Alter Kocker Chorus, Mr. Dworkin), William Squier (Big Sid), Jean Kauffman (Nana Brodsky, Mrs. Unger), Erin Leigh Peck (Mrs. Finkelstein), Ben Bogen (Lido Guy), Anna Noble (Backup Singer), Kelli Youngman (Backup Singer)
Scenic Designer: Alexander Dodge
Costume Designer: Linda Cho
Lighting Designer: Philip Rosenberg
Sound Designer: Peter Hylenski
Projection Designer: Aaron Rhyne
Wig & Hair Designer: Charles G. LaPointe
Makeup Designer: Joya Giambrone
Dance & Vocal Arrangements: Scott Frankel
Music Director: Thomas Murray
Orchestrator: Bruce Coughlin
Fight Choreographer: Thomas Schall
Dramaturge and Associate Artistic Director: Elizabeth Williamson
Casting: Carrie Gardner
Production Stage Manager: Linda Marvel
Assistant Stage Managers: Michael Wilhoite, Genevieve Kersh
Production Manager: Bryan T. Holcombe
General Manager: Emily Van Scoy
Running Time: Act I: 65 minutes, Act II: 60minutes with a 20 minute intermission
Hartford Stage, Hartford, Conn. May 9-June 15, 2019
Reviewed May 26, 2019

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