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Kimberly Akimbo Gets Her (and Our) Wish Most Wonderfully on Broadway



My one and only wish was for the chance to see Kimberly Akimbo transfer to Broadway so I could have the opportunity to see it again. It has been about a year since I saw it when it premiered at the Atlantic Theater ing Chelsea, and since that moment, I just couldn’t get it out of my mind ever since. It left with me with such a strong feeling, mainly because it was so intensely simple and charming, yet so emotionally complex. It’s warm and impossibly touching, yet many of the characters are not. And even on my second viewing, this time at the Booth Theatre on Broadway, this fantastic new musical, maybe the best of the season, finds its way into our collective heart so beautifully but from paths unexpected. It drives itself forward, down such a winding road, finding a golden and unique place to call home, where the music and the songs find a way of elevating the story with glee while keeping its sense of self honest and truthful. Somehow, somewhere, deep in this completely captivating tale of a 16-year-old girl who is genetically hyper-aging her way through high school and life, the musicality of the piece delivers the emotional clarity of life in abundance, leaving us thrilled and cheering by the time this show neatly wraps itself up. Not in a particularly traditional way, that is, but with an honesty and integrity that is overwhelmingly wonderful and fulfilling.

Victoria Clark in Broadway’s Kimberly Akimbo. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2022.

I never did see the 2003 play, “Kimberly Akimbo” by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright David Lindsay-Abaire (Rabbit Hole; Good People) when it premiered Off-Broadway at the Manhattan Theatre Club New York City Center Stage 1, long before it was enhanced and made into this fascinating show, by the wonderfully talented composer Jeanine Tesori (Caroline, or Change). Credited with creating the book and lyrics for the musical adaptation of his own play, Lindsay-Abaire has found his way through these high school hallways, with Kimberly, miraculously played by the incredibly convincing Victoria Clark (Broadway’s Gigi; The Light in the Piazza), chewing on her candied necklace, sitting in a state of perpetual anxiety. She’s feeling lost and alone, finding herself newly surrounded by kids looking for love in all the wrong New Jersey places and faces, but Kimberly, you can tell, is even more pessimistic. Love, she seems to believe, is too much to wish for. Or feeling beautiful for a day. Maybe a treehouse is as good as it can get.

Victoria Clark in Broadway’s Kimberly Akimbo. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2022.

Kimberly Akimbo is the story of an outsider, not only at high school but maybe from almost every aspect of her life. She’s not exactly disliked by the mismatched kids in her school, played solidly by this wonderfully eclectic foursome: Michael Iskander as Aaron, Nina White as Teresa, Olivia Elease Hardy as Delia, and Fernell Hogan II as Martin, who are all misplacing their affections on the wrong teenage soul. It’s telling in a way, that this is Kimberley Akimbo‘s backup singer chorus, a gaggle of hopeless teenage lovers pining for the one who loves another, who loves another, who loves another, all destined to be let down by love, but somehow compellingly hopeful. The tale, driven by a magnificent score by Tesori, brings forth an idea of that exacting kind of hope, love, and attachment that sings and radiates upward, giving us a glimmer of something more sweet and tender than anything as of late.

Clark has us believing in Kimberly, almost instantly, making us connect in such a strong way to her predicament, and really see her for the young girl she is inside. So perfectly does she achieve this, that when the young tuba-playing Seth, beautifully portrayed by newcomer Justin Cooley, sits down beside her, we know that he is really seeing the girl that exists inside, just like we are, and the feeling is miraculously warm and wonderful. Cooley, who was the recipient of the Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Lortel and Antonyo nominations for his performance in this part in last season’s Off-Broadway production of this musical, unpacks a strong connection to the phenomenal Clark, one that rings awkwardly true and gentle. It’s the key element that grounds this tale effortlessly in the wonderfully telling songs that are sung by them and those around her, thanks to some solid work by music director Chris Fenwick (Public’s Soft Power), with orchestrations by John Clancy (Broadway’s 1776), additional orchestrations by Macy Schmidt (Broadway’s Tina), and music coordination by Antoine Silverman (Broadway’s Fun Home). The book and lyrics by the playwright, Lindsay-Abaire (Shrek), only deepen that authentic connection, scrabbling the names and letters around to give us something even more telling.

Victoria Clark in Broadway’s Kimberly Akimbo. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2022.

Director Jessica Stone (The Old Globe’s Ken Ludwig’s Robin Hood!), draws us inside the teen world of Kimberly, unearthing the reality of a 16-year-old girl who is living in a body that is aging four or five times faster than any of the other kids around her. Leave it to Clark to find the physical and emotional essence of Kimberly in every move and moment, delicately giving us a real teenage girl, slump and insecurities et al., without ever losing touch with the reality of her predicament and surroundings. It’s an impeccable performance, one that shouldn’t be missed, not because it is by any means showy or big, but for the simple astonishing way she inhabits her own older body while giving us a sixteen-year-old we can most wonderfully attach to.

The first act is full of charm, even as the swear jar overflows with cash, thanks in particular to the fine performances of Kimberly’s Mom and Dad. They are not something out of any traditional or semi-traditional musical storytelling ideal. Her parents are in a way the exact opposite of what we want for her. They are self-absorbed, narcissistic, reckless, and sometimes cruel to the max, making the teenage girl sitting behind me gasp in astonishment more than once. But these two, wisely, are also not stereotypes, evil people without regard. They are complicated creations, trying to be good, but not finding a way through their own difficult lives and obsessions/addictions. Playing her perpetually late drunken father, Buddy, Steven Boyer (Broadway’s Hand to God; MCC’s Moscow x6) magically finds his way home, unwrapping a complicated man that is difficult to like or judge too harshly. His performance is inspiring, equal to the talented Alli Mauzey (Encores’ The Golden Apple) and her impressive creation of Patti, Kimberly’s pregnant mother. She is quite the invention, a distracted self-absorbed woman who needs Kimberly to maternally take care of her in a manner that is at times uncomfortable to watch, but is also not completely deplorable. They’re a terrible twosome, but more sad than horrific. It’s a powerfully exciting balancing act these two actors do, finding a heart in their carelessness and disregard for Kimberly and each other, especially in the final act of dismissal when it comes to Kimberly’s bedroom reconfiguration. The sting of their actions registers strong and utterly heartbreaking, but in many ways we can’t hate them like we might want to, as they seem like children themselves, younger than the daughter that stands before them asking for them to step up to the plate and play the game of parenting with a higher engagement of love and care.

Bonnie Milligan in Broadway’s Kimberly Akimbo. Photo by Joan Marcus, 2022.

Then in comes the biggest child of them all, Kimberly’s mischievous (hilarious) Aunt Debra, played with a wild and wonderful abandonment by the magnificent Bonnie Milligan (Broadway’s Head Over Heels). She steals every scene without breaking a sweat. Continually on the lam, breaking every rule she comes up against with an ease that is truly alarming, Milligan’s embodiment of this childish adult is as genius as her make-money-quick scheme is not. Her deconstruction and incorporation of the four sexually-frustrated chorus members is utterly brilliant and casually astounding to watch.

Through the connected and in-tune choreography of Danny Mefford (Broadway’s Dear Evan Hansen), and the equally in-sync inventive scenic design by David Zinn (Broadway’s Spongebob Musical) that looks and works better on Broadway than it did off, along with the spot-on costuming by Sarah Laux (Broadway’s The Band’s Visit); engaging lighting by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew (Public’s cullud wattah); the solid sound design by Kai Harada (Broadway’s Sunday in the Park…); and a telling and engaging video design Lucy MacKinnon (Broadway’s Jagged Little Pill), Kimberly Akimbo does the remounting genre proud. She doesn’t, in the end, get the family she deserves, but she does get the connection she desires. It causes our hearts to swell under her and Seth’s smile, unearthing a true reason for being, while deepening an emotional interaction that we have held out for her, and for us. The actors elevate the overall design, and the piece finds unity with all involved. This is what is needed on Broadway. Not another rewired tootsie from the film vault, but a breath of brilliant fresh air that makes us believe once again in something better and more connected. I got my wish, and it wasn’t for that treehouse.

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My love for theater started when I first got involved in high school plays and children's theatre in London, Ontario, which led me—much to my mother’s chagrin—to study set design, directing, and arts administration at York University in Toronto. But rather than pursuing theater as a career (I did produce and design a wee bit), I became a self-proclaimed theater junkie and life-long supporter. I am not a writer by trade, but I hope to share my views and feelings about this amazing experience we are so lucky to be able to see here in NYC, and in my many trips to London, Enlgand, Chicago, Toronto, Washington, and beyond. Living in London, England from 1985 to 1986, NYC since 1994, and on my numerous theatrical obsessive trips to England, I've seen as much theater as I can possibly afford. I love seeing plays. I love seeing musicals. If I had to choose between a song or a dance, I'd always pick the song. Dance—especially ballet—is pretty and all, but it doesn’t excite me as, say, Sondheim lyrics. But that being said, the dancing in West Side Story is incredible! As it seems you all love a good list, here's two. FAVORITE MUSICALS (in no particular order): Sweeney Todd with Patti Lupone and Michael Cerveris in 2005. By far, my most favorite theatrical experience to date. Sunday in the Park with George with Jenna Russell (who made me sob hysterically each and every one of the three times I saw that production in England and here in NYC) in 2008 Spring Awakening with Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele in 2007 Hedwig and the Angry Inch (both off-Boadway in 1998 and on Broadway in 2014, with Neal Patrick Harris, but also with Michael C. Hall and John Cameron Mitchell, my first Hedwig and my far), Next To Normal with Alice Ripley (who I wish I had seen in Side Show) in 2009 FAVORITE PLAYS (that’s more difficult—there have been so many and they are all so different): Angels in American, both on Broadway and off Lettice and Lovage with Dame Maggie Smith and Margaret Tyzack in 1987 Who's Afraid of Virginai Woolf with Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in 2012 Almost everything by Alan Ayckbourn, but especially Woman in Mind with Julia McKenzie in 1986 And to round out the five, maybe Proof with Mary Louise Parker in 2000. But ask me on a different day, and I might give you a different list. These are only ten theatre moments that I will remember for years to come, until I don’t have a memory anymore. There are many more that I didn't or couldn't remember, and I hope a tremendous number more to come. Thanks for reading. And remember: read, like, share, retweet, enjoy. For more go to


Ahead of the Broadway Opening of Lempicka The Longacre Theatre Is Showcasing Art Work By Tamara de Lempicka



The Longacre Theatre (220 W 48th St.), soon-to-be home of the sweeping new musical, Lempicka, is showcasing a curated selection of renowned artist Tamara de Lempicka’s most famous works. Eschewing traditional theatrical front-of-house advertising, the Longacre’s façade now boasts prints, creating a museum-quality exhibition right in the heart of Times Square. The musical opens on Broadway on April 14, 2024 at the same venue.

The Longacre’s outdoor exhibition includes works of Self Portrait (Tamara in a Green Bugatti) (1929), Young Girl in Green (1927), Nu Adossé I (1925), The Red Tunic (1927), The Blue Scarf (1930), The Green Turban (1930), Portrait of Marjorie Ferry (1932), Portrait of Ira P. (1930), Portrait of Romana de la Salle (1928), and Adam and Eve (1932).

Starring Eden Espinosa and directed by Tony Award winner Rachel Chavkin, Lempicka features book, lyrics, and original concept by Carson Kreitzer, book and music by Matt Gould, and choreography by Raja Feather Kelly.

Spanning decades of political and personal turmoil and told through a thrilling, pop-infused score, Lempicka boldly explores the contradictions of a world in crisis, a woman ahead of her era, and an artist whose time has finally come.

Young Girl in Green painted by Tamara de Lempicka (1927). Oil on plywood.