Some musicals lean into laughs. Others center on coming-of-age stories or family crises. Kimberly Akimbo does it all, with a unique blend of comedy and drama that wowed critics and propelled the show to Broadway’s Booth Theatre, beginning October 12. With its quicksilver shifts in tone, the new musical soars on stage thanks to the skill and smarts of its cast. Tony Award winner Victoria Clark plays the title role, a 16-year-old girl with a fictional rapid-aging disease, and she is surrounded by a stellar ensemble. Four of those costars recently chatted about the show with Broadway Direct during a laugh-filled Zoom get-together: Tony nominee Steven Boyer (Hand to God) plays Kim’s alcoholic dad; Alli Mauzey (Wicked, Cry-Baby) is her pregnant mom; Bonnie Milligan (Head Over Heels) portrays her scheming aunt; and recent high school graduate Justin Cooley gives a poignant performance as Kim’s nerdy high school friend. Listen in as they share the buzz on this highly anticipated original show.
After a sold-out Off-Broadway run, the four of you are headed to Broadway in Kimberly Akimbo!
Alli Mauzey: We’re so excited!
Justin Cooley: I am still in shock and disbelief.
Bonnie Milligan: This show felt really special even during rehearsal, and audiences were vocal right off the bat. My friend Matt Doyle, who just won a Tony [for Company], came to the second Off-Broadway preview and said, “This is going to Broadway!”
Steven Boyer: People kept saying the B word.
Alli Mauzey: Do you know when I realized it was a special show? My husband saw it once and wanted to come back and see it again. And I didn’t have to ask. That doesn’t happen on all my shows. [Laughter.]
What do you love about this musical?
Steven: It’s a show that has everything. It is riotously funny, and then it sneaks up and stabs you in the heart. Before you know it, you’re laughing and crying at the same time. It’s a comedy, but it also has such an emotional center and is so engaging and moving.
Alli: It’s a testament to [librettist/lyricist] David Lindsay-Abaire how deeply I laugh and how deeply I am moved — that’s what I responded to when I first read the script. It was opposite ends of the spectrum, and I didn’t know which emotion I would feel deeply next. I crossed my fingers that the audience was going to experience the same thing, and they did.
Bonnie: This is one of the most talented casts I’ve ever been part of. Everybody brings such brilliant individuality and flair to their roles — which, on top of that, are brilliantly written. For me, that’s the best part.
Justin: I love the diversity of generations and experiences and perspectives that this cast brings. Working with Vicki [Clark], who is more than 40 years older than me, I learn so much not only creatively but personally. Our characters are both grasping for anything that can bring them hope and joy. My connection with Vicki is something we felt instantly, and I think that comes across on stage.
Alli, Steve, and Bonnie, how would you describe this crazy family you’re playing?
Alli: How dare you call them crazy? [Laughter.] You’ve got a mom who is a bit of a hypochondriac and a bit of a narcissist. …
Bonnie: Just a touch!
Alli: The adults are the children in the family in some ways, and Kim is the one taking care of everybody. I think that’s what makes you root for her.
Steven: It’s great fun to play because it’s not depressing. The family makes jokes at each other the whole time, and the fact that Kim has this disorder means that she has to grow up too fast — her parents are the children.
Bonnie: Sure, these are flawed, dysfunctional people, but they’re trying as hard as they know how. There is such love there. It’s not always healthy, but they’re doing the best they can.
Let’s talk about Jeanine Tesori’s score. What’s special about the music in Kimberly Akimbo?
Bonnie: Jeanine always tunes in to what the story needs and the emotions of each moment. She’s a storyteller, first and foremost, and it’s thrilling.
Steven: She has this sneaky genius that we got to see in the rehearsal room. She would bring in different instruments for each character’s theme music. It does something emotionally to the audience without them even knowing it’s happening.
Justin: Jeanine is able to tap into the individual characters and translate who they are and what they feel into melody. She’s so good at getting into the human side of the characters.
Alli: I would say that Jeanine’s music elevates David’s original play [from 2001] on an emotional level. That’s what helps us feel so deeply for the people in this musicalized version, especially Kimberly.
How have audiences responded to the show?
Bonnie: People love it across the board. A lot of people get emotional — they weren’t expecting to be so moved — as well as to laugh so hard. They would say, “Give me some time. I have so many feelings right now, but I loved it.”
Alli: This is an original story, and that, in general, is so cool and unique. It’s such a lovely surprise for people. And it’s refreshing — I’ve heard that word a lot.
Justin: Part of the beauty of it is when audiences come in not knowing what the show is going to be like. I’ve heard people say, “I don’t know what akimbo means. …”
Steven: You don’t need to know what akimbo means! [Laughter.]
Alli: Justin, what do you think your generation gets from the show? A lot of it takes place in a high school.
Justin: I think it speaks to the experience of trying to find your place in the world. Kimberly and Seth are sort of outcasts, but they are unabashedly themselves through the entire musical, and people love that. They choose joy, and that goes hand in hand with finding their place.
Kimberly Akimbo was delayed by the pandemic, but does it feel like the show is coming to Broadway at the right time?
Bonnie: Absolutely. You go on an emotional journey, which is rare.
Alli: A big theme of the show is “What do I want to do with my time?” And now that our lives are opening back up, we have an appreciation for all the things we didn’t get to do [for the past few years]. I think people are longing to come to the theatre and have a catharsis, because we’ve been through a lot.
Justin: Everything we were looking forward to fell apart [during COVID], and this show makes you think, “I should get up and go on an adventure.” I love that.
Steven: On a much simpler level, I feel like it’s always a good time to laugh, and this show really makes me laugh. It’s one of those shows that is impossible to put into a box. It’s a great roller coaster ride — it does it all.
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