January 20, 2022
Rather than age normally, Kimberly (Victoria Clark) ages in dog years meaning she's a junior high school student who looks like an old lady. Despite this genetic abnormality, Kimberly grows up like any child, wishing for friends and avoiding family tensions in David Lindsay-Abaire's fabulous new musical Kimberly Akimbo.
We meet Kimberly at the local ice skating rink waiting for her delinquent father Buddy (Steven Boyer). Alcohol and stress rule her father's actions making him an unreliable member of the family. Compared to her father and her pregnant, child-like mother, Kimberly projects the wisdom of her aged physical appearance.
A loner, Kimberly connects with an equally alone and smart young man Seth (Justin Cooley) who works at the ice rink and needs a science lab partner. Determined to get a good grade Kimberly and Seth meet at the library. Suddenly the calm is disrupted by the whirlwind arrival of Pattie (Alli Mauzey), Kimberly's ne'er do well aunt who has an affinity for larceny.
Utterly hilarious and outlandishly appealing, the full-bodied Pattie's charisma showers the audience. Determined to make her fortune through any illegal means available, she rallies Kimberly as well as her schoolmates into becoming partners-in-crime.
Of course, Kimberly wants nothing to do with her out-of-control aunt, but her "make money fast" scheme is vastly appealing. In no time, Pattie and her-underaged gang become outlaws in a money laundering game plan.
With little fuss, the minimal sets by David Zinn along with Lap Chi Che's keen lighting design transform the Atlantic Theater into multiple indoor and outdoor locations.
But the essence of Kimberly Akimbo resides in Lindsay-Abaire's book and lyrics as well as its musical score by the startlingly talented Maria Tesori. She plunges richly hewn pop and soul beats into lush classical orchestrations.
Additionally, a thunderous, driving band is so exciting it makes you wish they would play a set during intermission.
Despite COVID concerns, the Atlantic Theater was packed with masked folks applauding a much-needed original musical buoyed by redemption and hope.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY --Celia Ipiotis