Also see Susan's review of Grounded
Kander turns 88 this month, but his work with lyricist-librettist Greg Pierce shows no signs of age. If anything, his work on Kid Victory is overly creative, as gorgeous songs give way to melodies that trail off after a few notes and the plot occasionally wanders into blind alleys.
The story revolves around Luke (Jake Winn), a 17-year-old boy who went missing almost a year earlier and now has returned to his small Kansas hometown. Luke's mother (Christiane Noll) believes her faith and prayers brought him home and wants him to return to her previous life; his father (Christopher Bloch) doesn't know what to say to him.
Luke needs to process what has happened to him before he can move on, but he knows that he can't confide in most people he knows. He finds a kindred spirit in Emily (Sarah Litzsinger), an outspoken hippie who owns a store selling garden ornaments and inspirational kitsch. Little by little with Emily's help, Luke sorts through his conflicting feelings about Michael (Jeffry Denman), his captor but, on occasion, also his friend.
Winn triumphs in playing a young man who has closed himself off for his own protection and now is trying, one step at a time, to rebuild his life. Noll and Litzsinger represent the two poles in Luke's life and each of them has a great solo: "There Was a Boy" for Noll and "People Like Us" for Litzsinger. Denman is chilling yet recognizably human, and Donna Migliaccio amuses in a peripheral role as a well-meaning member of Noll's church.
Director Liesl Tommy navigates the emotional ups and downs of Pierce's book while remaining grounded in realism. On the other hand, choreographer Christopher Windom takes the show into surrealistic terrain, staging one number with dancers holding enormous marbles as they move and literally turning people on their heads in another.