Review Roundup: KID VICTORY Opens at Signature Theatre

Virginia's Signature Theatre presents the world premiere production of Kid Victory, a new musical from legendary composer John Kander (Chicago, Cabaret) and acclaimed playwright Greg Pierce (Slowgirl). The production began performances at Signature Theatre's MAX Theatre on February 17. It will play for five weeks, through March 22.

Directed by Liesl Tommy (Associate Artistic Director at Berkeley Rep, Woolly Mammoth's Appropriate), the ensemble piece will feature Christopher Bloch (Dad/Joseph; Signature's Cloak & Dagger), Laura Darrell (Girl/Suze; York Theatre Company'sSmiling the Boy Fell Dead), Jeffry Denman (Michael; Broadway's White Christmas and The Producers),Parker Drown(Boy/Andrew; Signature's Hairspray), Sarah Litzsinger (Emily; Broadway's Beauty and the Beast and LES MISERABLES), Donna Migliaccio (Woman/Gail; Signature's Sunday in the Park with George), Christiane Noll(Mom/Eileen; Signature's Witches of Eastwick and Broadway's Ragtime), Bobby Smith (Man/Franklin; Signature's The Threepenny Opera and Spin) and Jake Winn (Luke).

Seventeen-year-old Luke returns home after vanishing a year ago. Profoundly changed, Luke and his parents struggle to adjust to life following his disappearance. Only finding solace with Emily, the quirky proprietor of an offbeat garden shop, Luke grapples with a past undone and a coming of age that came too late to a boy who just wants to fade away.

Let's see what the critics had to say...

Derek Mong, DC Metro Theater Arts: Haunting, chilling, and totally mesmerizing are just a few words that you could use to describe the second collaboration between legendary composer John Kander (Chicago and Cabaret) and acclaimed playwright Greg Pierce (Slowgirl). Perhaps the greatest achievement of Kid Victory is that it accomplishes what great storytellers try to do: bring challenging subject matter to audiences in a new, compelling, and thought-provoking light. As a musical that centers upon the rare phenomenon of total disappearance, Kid Victory shines in highlighting the universality of acceptance, companionship, identity, and genuine understanding.

Nelson Pressley, Washington Post: This is not for the fainthearted, for sure, but musicals will edge right up to the limits of turbulent behavior from time to time; "American Idiot," "Spring Awakening," "Next to Normal" and "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" all have moments at least as distressing as anything depicted here. Luckily, Kander and Pierce aren't just out to shock. "Kid Victory" is inquisitive and deeply empathetic, with an open-hearted score by Kander written for a 10-piece orchestra. The songs, performed to a high standard under Jesse Kissel's musical direction, burrow into the dark complexities that these confused, wounded characters often find hard to talk about.

Jennifer Perry, BroadwayWorld.com: First, their story is completely original - a rarity nowadays - and it is an interesting and thought-provoking one at that. Second, at least in terms of overall concept and form, the creative team takes risks not often associated with many contemporary musicals - or at least the ones packaged for a commercial Broadway run - both in terms of the subject matter and flexible use of time and how to get from Point A to Point B. Third, there's new music by John Kander (need I say more) and it's as gloriously melodic, catchy, and fresh as ever. Fourth, this production offers a strong cast that's more than capable of tackling the challenging material. This is not to say that everything works. Simply put, it doesn't. However, for the first time out, it's abundantly clear the musical, directed by Liesl Tommy, has a lot of promise and has the potential to strike a chord with the more discerning theatergoing public.

DC Theatre Scene: As good as he is, Drown's performance is hardly the only one worth high praise. Noll's character is unattractive, but she herself is entirely plausible; you know she's wrong, but at every minute Noll lets you know that she thinks she's right, and not only right, but rather heroic. Noll's mom leads with her chin; despite the horrible thing Michael has done, she makes herself a villain, in exactly the way it should be done. Kander's music takes advantage of her operatic soprano, particularly in her battle with Emily, "The Last Thing He Needs."

Elliott Lanes, MD Theatre Guide: John Kander's score sets all the right moods from eerie to light with melodies that you will remember long after you see this show. This is partially due to Michael Starobin's expert ten piece orchestration conducted by Jesse Kissel. Resident MD for Signature Theatre Jon Kalbfleisch will assume conducting duties this week. Songs such as "A Single Tear", "I'd Rather Wait" and "People Like Us" are three examples of Greg Pierce paying homage to Kander's longtime collaborator Fred Ebb with well written lyrics that fit each of their respective moments to a tee.

Eric Althoff, Washington Times: There are light, upbeat numbers, such as the late-show entry "Matchstick Men," featuring the effervescent Parker Drown, as Andrew, turning an awkward midnight meeting with Luke in the cornfields into a song-and-dance number that features a tap routine. Mr. Drown appears lighter than air in the number, all smiles and positivity, providing marked contrast to the rapidly increasing spiral swallowing Luke's soul.

Keep checking back as more reviews roll in!

Photo Credit: Margot Schulman

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