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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Kid Victory
Signature Theatre

Also see Susan's review of Grounded

Sarah Litzsinger and Jake Winn
No one has ever accused John Kander of writing traditional works for Broadway—but Kid Victory, his new musical receiving its world premiere at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, cuts closer to home and deeper than much of his earlier work. The setting is not Nazi Germany or the Jim Crow South in 1931; it takes place in the present, in an ordinary town where everyday people must come to terms with the unknowable.

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.

Signature Theatre
Kid Victory
February 17th - March 22nd
Story by John Kander & Greg Pierce
Music by John Kander
Lyrics & book by Greg Pierce
Luke: Jake Winn
Michael: Jeffry Denman
Mom: Christiane Noll
Dad: Christopher Bloch
Emily: Sarah Litzsinger
Kimberly: Laura Darrell
Franklin: Bobby Smith
Gail: Donna Migliaccio
Detective Marks: Bobby Smith
Suze: Laura Darrell
Andrew: Parker Drown
Mara: Laura Darrell
A co-production with the Vineyard Theatre
Directed by Liesl Tommy
Choreography by Christopher Windom
Music direction by Jesse Kissel
MAX Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave.
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information: 703-820-9771 or 1-800-955-5566 or

Photo: Margot Schulman

-- Susan Berlin

Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.

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