Although Kat is perfunctorily pegged as a gambler, Bingo a lady-killer, Ballie a sweetheart and Magoo a goof, the boys never really come across as sharply defined people living in an all too terribly specific place and time. It’s not necessarily the lack of attention to the politically charged environment that harms the show, but its generally too-sophomoric spirit.
But if the show’s structure and level of sophistication leave something to be desired, its cast surely doesn’t. In addition to being agile, physically witty performers, they’re supremely smooth and charismatic singers, with each of the Kings being given a chance to lead a solo. And Hector proves himself nearly their match when he joins the young Kings for several songs.
As the show’s narration winds up, the young Kat looks to the elder and expresses a sad dismay at his future, “I can’t believe this is what happens to me.” It’s a small moment of emotion that is erased quickly by the musical’s long finale, in which the audience is exhorted repeatedly to join the fun by singing and clapping along. There’s a strange dislocation involved that’s at the heart of the musical’s disappointment: Even as it seeks to honor the memory of a particular time and place, “Kat and the Kings” keeps urging you to forget everything but the bliss of a passionately sung song.