BWW Album Review: KID VICTORY (Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording) is Beautifully Turbulent
KID VICTORY, a challenging and dark musical, ran Off-Broadway from February 1 to March 19, 2017. The roughly two-hour one-act tells the story of 17-year-old Luke as he returns home and readjusts to his small Kanas community after being held captive for 11 months. He befriends the town outcast, Emily, who owns the local lawn decoration store. Now, months after the Off-Broadway production closed, on Broadway Records has released their sonically beautiful KID VICTORY (Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording).
The musical features a score by legendary composer John Kander. Fans of Kander and casual listeners alike will hear hallmarks of Kander's style across the album. The intricate music is performed by a small orchestra, giving it a pared down tonality that masterfully highlights the emotions of the characters and adds delicious depth to the more introspective moments. Aurally, the music shifts from being somberly plaintive and brooding to warm, heartfelt protestant hymns and to Broadway pop ballads.
Lyrics by Greg Pierce avoid ornamentation and lofty metaphors. The words he gives to the performers sound exactly like things your average modern-day American would say. This allows KID VICTORY to achieve its most lofty of goals, which is painting each and every character as truly human and flawed. It is this aspect of the musical that most audiences will find the most discomforting. This is especially true when they find themselves experiencing pangs of empathy for Michael, the man who kidnaps and holds Luke captive.
Most surprisingly, the titular character of KID VICTORY never actually sings in the show. BranDon Flynn is present on the album in moments of dialogue; however, the star of the album is Jeffry Denman as Michael. With his first appearance on the album in "Lord, Carry Me Home (Reprise)" it is easy to be disgusted by Denman's Michael. Then, in "Vinland," Denman shows a softer side of Michael as he teaches Luke about the Viking's discovery of Vinland with palpable childlike wonder and whimsy. The overriding darkness of the show creeps back in by the end of the song as Michael drugs Luke with a drink and demands that he never say no to him.
Later on the album, the audience is exposed to how Denman's Michael befriended Luke on a computer game with the track "Regatta 500." Here, Denman sings with a warmth that paints him as an almost wholesome and surprisingly caring individual. Lastly, his final appearance on the album, "You, If Anyone," conveys an undeniable love for the child he has kidnapped. Denman sings the song with alluring sincerity and a utterly real heartbreak because he cannot be a better boyfriend or partner for Flynn's Luke. Across the flashbacks to his time with Michael, the audience is repeatedly exposed to a man who does an unforgivably evil act; yet, they are show that he is not heartless. His cruelty weighs heavily on the listener's heart, allowing the audience to empathize with Denman's multifaceted characterization for Michael.
A true standout performance comes from the spirited Dee Roscioli as Emily. Helping Flynn's Luke find his place in society, Roscioli sings with heartfelt sentimentality "Lawn," her tender vocals are richly evocative on "People Like Us," and her fiercely tangible heartache and angst on "Dear Mara" are moving.
Daniel Jenkins closes the album with the richly stirring yet subdued "Where We Are," crafting a character that has finally come to understand and even accept his son for who he is. Karen Ziémba's transition from a stereotypical smothering mother to a woman coming to terms with his son growing up differently than she expected on "There Was a Boy" is a highlight of the album. As Luke's long-suffering pseudo-girlfriend, Laura Darrell tugs at heartstrings with her anguished yet lovely vocals on "I'd Rather Wait." Sadly, Blake Zolfo's solo, "What's the Point?," feels inauthentic and cliched because of the music and lyrics; yet, his vocals are beguiling enough to make the song tolerable.
The album, like the show itself, is gorgeously turbulent and it's easy to sink into the waves and lose oneself in the dark embrace of the conflicting tale of a teenager, who struggling with his sexuality jumped at a chance to experience forbidden romance. Unfortunately, for those who didn't see KID VICTORY in performance, the plot may not be the easiest thing to decipher from the album, and the choppy synopsis in the liner notes completely leaps over the psychological turmoil and contorted emotions of the story. Simply put, this piece of theater is not an easy one to digest, and despite being resplendent in how cleanly and crisply the score, lyrics, and vocal performances are captured, I don't expect KID VICTORY (Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording) will play well for those not already a fan of the show.
Broadway Records released KID VICTORY (Original Off-Broadway Cast Recording) both digitally and physically on September 29, 2017. It can be purchased from their website, iTunes, Amazon, and elsewhere music is sold.