Signature Theater is staging "Kid Victory," the highly anticipated and chilling world premiere original musical from composer John Kander and playwright Greg Pierce from Feb. 17 through March 22.
The story involves 17-year-old Luke who returns home after vanishing a year earlier. Profoundly changed, Luke and his parents struggle to adjust to life following his disappearance. Only finding solace with Emily, the quirky proprietor of a 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.
This is the second collaboration between the legendary Kander ("Chicago," "Cabaret") and Greg Pierce ("Slowgirl").
Jake Winn plays Luke, a teen who has just returned from a year of abduction.
"He's traumatized, and he's just trying to get everything back to normal," said Winn. "He's also really into boats."
Winn said it was an incredibly challenging piece to begin with because it deals with a really intense subject matter that doesn't let us or the audience off the hook.
"I'd say the biggest challenge has been not only tackling the subject matter but doing it justice," he said. "The script and score is so beautifully complicated, and finding all of the layers, details and nuances in there has been quite a rewarding challenge."
Winn adds, "No one knows what (if anything) will work in front of an audience. So we're all just using our best artistic judgment and taking risk wherever we can, but it's a lot like jumping off a building with no net in sight — the whole thing can come crashing down."
Winn said he wants the audience to leave thinking, or talking, or at the very least humming. "Just so long as it sparks some sort of lingering excitement, I'm happy."
Emily, portrayed by Sarah Litzsinger, is the owner of the offbeat lawn and garden shop in town.
"She's cool, quirky and complicated," Litzsinger said. "She employs Luke and through their friendship, provides a safe environment for him to open up about his time away."
She says she thinks it's always challenging when playing a character that has so many facets. "This piece certainly doesn't shy away from complex emotions, but as an actor it's what I love. I always start with: 'How is the character like me? How is she not like me.'"
She said, "I'm also loving how our director, Liesl Tommy, guides us through these tough emotional moments. She's always challenging us to not be too safe."
"I know when I listen and watch in rehearsal, I'm swept away by a myriad of emotions,” Litzsinger said. “The music and lyrics by John Kander and Greg Pierce are just phenomenal."
Signature Theatre is staging "Kid Victory" through March 22 — Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.; Thursdays and Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sundays, 2 and 7 p.m. Specialty nights include Inside Signature with Jake Winn on March 5; Pride Night, March 13; and Discussion Nights, March 11 and 17. "Kid Victory" contains explicit content; viewer discretion is advised. Signature Theatre is located at 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington. Visit www.signature-theatre.org or call 703-820-9771.