Bonnie MilliganA beloved fixture of New York’s cabaret circuit for years, it’s finally getting its chance to establish itself as a full-on theatrical powerhouse through Broadway’s “Way.”kimberly akimbo“The most unconventional new music of the season.”
Adapted from the 2001 play of the same name by writer David Lindsay-Abaire and composer Jeanine Tesori, “Kimberly Akimbo” follows a 15-year-old Kimberly Leveaux (played by Victoria Clark) who grew up with a premature aging condition like Progeria, thus appearing to be well into her 70s.
Faced with the reality that she’s unlikely to live past her 16th birthday, Kimberly is eager to investigate the milestones of the teenage experience – a first kiss, a Disney World road trip – before it’s too late. Go Enter Kim’s Aunt Debra (Milligan), a street-smart grifter who, like the artful dodger of “Oliver Twist,” recruits her niece into an illegal, money-making scheme that helps her and her classmates live up to their dreams. could help fulfill the plan – that is, if no one gets caught.
On paper, Aunt Debra is a criminal. As portrayed by Milligan, however, the scene-stealing character turns out to be the kind of brassy antihero Bette Midler might have played in her prime.
Milligan told HuffPost, “I have a very large family and I know a lot of very complicated people who have done some very complicated things and who are doing their best with their brains.” “So that’s how I approached Debra. She’s not maliciously trying to hurt people, but she would because she needed to survive. She had no one to look out for her, so she looked out for herself. is, and thus she talks about herself not feeling bad about bullying people, well, who were looking out for her? Nobody. It’s just animal instinct taking over.
She noted: “He’s also a charismatic person that you want to be around. When I read the play, I saw love. Kimberly is his favorite person in the world, because she’s the only person who clearly seems to like being around him.” and does more than she can tolerate. She knows what’s going on in Kim’s life. To me, that says love.
“Kimberly Akimbo” is Milligan’s first Broadway outing since her impressive debut in the 2018 musical The Go-Go’s.head over heels,” which received positive Review but struggled to find an audience. Before that, she honed her craft in off-Broadway shows like Ryan Scott Oliver and Hunter Foster’s “jasper in deadland,” As well as concert stageWhere is he affectionately known as “Belting Bonnie” to fans.
But Milligan’s road to Broadway was marked with setbacks that might have discouraged a less determined performer. She was struggling with the premature closure of “Head Over Heels” when she first learned of “Kimberly Akimbo”, ahead of premiere staging Off-Broadway, early 2020. At the time, an audition seemed out of the question, given that she had returned to her native Ohio to attend to her father, Bill, who had recently been diagnosed with late-stage pancreatic cancer. He died about five weeks after his arrival.
As she grieved the loss, Milligan was able to postpone her virtual tryout for “Kimberly Akimbo”. By the time she landed the part, however, theaters and other performance venues had been closed indefinitely to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“I had to hope and pray that it would come back,” she recalled, “because something about this material felt like it was mine.”
One thing Aunt Debra in “Kimberly Akimbo” shares with Milligan’s characters in “Head Over Heels” and other shows is an unattainable sense of self. It’s a trait the actor and singer intentionally tries to highlight in her performances, perhaps in response to the challenges she’s experienced as a plus-size woman in show business.
“I’ve been able to be a fully formed performer, much more than anyone who just comes in for a quick fat or food joke, and to completely bring myself to two shows,” she explained. “Physical diversity isn’t something we’ve always talked about, but I think [Broadway producers] Audiences are realizing the importance of seeing themselves on stage in a pleasant light rather than as someone who is seen as unattractive. I see a change. I’d love to see us shift more, and maybe cast a plus-size person as the romantic lead. Let us be prosperous, let us be attractive, let us be the fully formed people we are in the world.
And if Milligan has his way, an onscreen romance could very well be in his future, along with other film, television, and theater projects.
“I guess I need to do at least one Hallmark Christmas movie in my life,” she quipped. “I look at some of my idols: Carol Burnett, Debra Monk, Donna Murphy. They’ve all done it, and they continue to live and work in all these different places.
She said, “To be honest, I would prefer to have my toe in everything.” “But the hope is just to have a career. I don’t need to be famous, but I love working. That’s the dream.
“Kimberly Akimbo” playing now at the Booth Theater in New York.
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