Sometimes the absence of shame feels like a win. Kid Victory is a musical—yes, a musical—about a teenage boy who has been abducted, drugged and raped by an older man. But the show manages to navigate its subject’s minefield of potential mortification. Much credit for that belongs to Brandon Flynn, the sensitive but never maudlin young actor who plays Luke, a 17-year-old Kansan trying to readjust to small-town life after a year chained to a basement wall by an ex–history teacher named Michael (Jeffry Denman, just creepy enough). Kudos also go to librettist Greg Pierce and composer John Kander, who nimbly thread a narrow needle. But what is the needle’s point?
From its opening number on, Kid Victory implies that Luke’s stifling Christian community feels, to him, like a different kind of dungeon from the one he has escaped. But the show's depiction of that world—including Luke’s fussy mother (Karen Ziemba) and recessive father (Daniel Jenkins)—doesn’t convey a sense of repression with much force. The songs, which run from neovaudeville (à la Kander’s Chicago) to more modern styles (including a pretty ballad for Laura Darrell as Luke’s would-be girlfriend), often seem truncated or extraneous, and Luke himself does not sing a note. If Kid Victory doesn’t embarrass itself as a musical, neither does it offer, in the end, compelling reasons for being one.
Vineyard Theatre (Off Broadway). Book and lyrics by Greg Pierce. Music by John Kander. Directed by Liesl Tommy. With Brandon Flynn, Jeffry Denman, Karen Ziemba. Running time: 1hr 45mins. No intermission. Through Mar 19. Click here for full ticket and venue information.