Open: 11/03/14- Close: 11/16/14
Reviewed for TheaterOnline.com By: Heather Violanti
Robert L. Hecker’s real-life experiences in the Army Air Corps during World War II inform his latest musical, Flak House, now playing at Actors Temple Theatre. Steeped in first-hand detail, the piece paints a vivid picture of life at a “flak house,” or rest home, for airmen battling combat fatigue. A rich, varied score and talented, enthusiastic cast help keep the musical moving forward at a brisk pace, even in moments when its central story could be stronger. The main plot about a young bombardier who questions his vocation has promise, skirting a discussion on the human cost of war—but it all wraps up a little too neatly and quickly to be believed, perhaps to keep things to 90 minutes. The addition of period music alongside original material, while adding historical accuracy, sometimes impedes narrative momentum, slowing down story and character development.
Still, this is a heartfelt, hardworking show that combines poignancy with charm. Director and choreographer Ashley Wren Collins elicits committed performances from the cast and displays a flair for 1940’s jive with rousing ensemble numbers. Jaunty group routines to “Run Little Rabbit” and the original song “Country Van” are highlights, displaying the ensemble’s athletic dancing skills with complicated lifts and leaps.
The eager young ensemble displays an enthusiasm that rivals the chorus of the big-budget revival of On the Town down the block. They shine in group numbers, and display infectious camaraderie while also grasping the musical’s moments of serious drama. Amar Biamonte stands out as the tormented Lt. Hal Bailey, questioning the ethics of war, while Stefanie Londino steals her scenes as sassy nurse Crystal Buehler, whose comic veneer hides a heart of gold.
Overall, the show offers a fascinating glimpse into the firsthand experience of World War II through both original and period music.
Actors Temple Theatre : 339 West 47th Stree