I saw *Kimberly Akimbo* on Broadway on Oct 25, 2022. It's a new musical with music by Jeanine Tesori and a book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire based on his play. I had my eye on it because I'm a fan of Tesori, through her musicals *Caroline, or Change,* *Violet,* and *Fun Home.* She's a brilliant composer, she knows how to express characterization through the music and often uses the music as the true vehicle of the story. Both of these talents will serve her very well in the opera she's writing for the Met.
*Kimberly Akimbo* is the story of a 16-year-old girl in Bergen County, New Jersey in 1999. "Before kids had cell phones," as they say in the program. Kimberly has a (fictional) disease that causes her to age 4 to 5 times faster than is usual. Kimberly is played by Tony winner Victoria Clark, who is 63. Her high school classmates are played by actors in their 20s, which was a little disconcerting at first but Clark put across the teenage girl behavior in such an effortless and adorable way. She was the heart of the show, it was one of those unforgettable performances, as I hoped it would be. Her bio was a riot. An excerpt: "The last time she was 16, Clark played 71-year-old Rebecca Nurse in her high school production of *The Crucible.*"
Justin Cooley played Kimberly's best friend and eventual boyfriend. He was darling and had a pleasant, sincere singing voice. Steven Boyer and Alli Mauzey played Kimberly's parents who were portrayed in a way that made Kimberly seem pretty normal in comparison. Likewise her mess of an Aunt Debra, part-time felon and full-time bad influence, played by Bonnie Milligan. She had a number in the first act (it might have been her first song) that was a satire on a show-stopping number. The quartet of actors playing Kimberly's other classmates implausibly came onstage to do backup for this number, adding to the hilarity. Milligan got the Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama League awards for her performance in the off Broadway production of the show. I imagine she'll be nominated for a Tony and she might win it but I think the punch of her performance is more in the writing than in the execution.
Let me go on about Victoria Clark a bit longer. I'd seen her a number of times before: first in her Tony-winning performance in *The Light on the Piazza* and also in *The Marriage of Bette and Boo,* *Cinderella* (as the fairy godmother), and in a dazzling performance in *Lady in the Dark.* She's a compelling actor. She rides that line between being sincere and honest and giving a performance, feeling it and knowing how to put it across. And her voice is so beautiful.
Clark was the heart of the show but the show is so well made, it'll be effective with another strong actor in the part. The music was exceptional. It was often catchy and upbeat, maybe a little too wacky and manic now and then, especially in the first act. Often a song would start with pep and have a slower, reflective section in the center. These transitions were done smoothly, often with an unexpected harmonic pivot - - the singer would be holding a note connected to the exiting section and the orchestra would start the new section surrounding the singer in a new, surprising setting. Again, these pivots were done smoothly. They were unexpected but made sense.
So my question is: will Meryl do the movie?