Bonnie Milligan Makes Her Mark In Broadway Musical ‘Kimberly Akimbo’

Bonnie Milligan, a beloved fixture of New York’s cabaret circuit for years, is lastly getting an opportunity to determine herself as a full-on theatrical powerhouse by the use of Broadway’s “Kimberly Akimbo,” this season’s most unconventional new musical.

Tailored by author David Lindsay-Abaire and composer Jeanine Tesori from the 2001 play of the identical title, “Kimberly Akimbo” follows a lonely 15-year-old named Kimberly Levaco (performed by Victoria Clark) who has grown up with a untimely ageing situation much like progeria, thus making her look like effectively into her 70s.

Confronted with the truth that she’s not prone to stay a lot past her sixteenth birthday, Kimberly is raring to test off the milestones of the teenage expertise ― a primary kiss, a Disney World street journey ― earlier than it’s too late. Enter Kim’s Aunt Debra (Milligan), a street-smart grifter who, very similar to the Suave Dodger of “Oliver Twist,” recruits her niece into a bootleg, moneymaking scheme that might assist her and her classmates fulfill their desires ― that’s, if nobody will get caught.

On paper, Aunt Debra is a legal. As portrayed by Milligan, nevertheless, the scene-stealing character turns into the type of brassy antihero Bette Midler may need performed in her prime.

Bonnie Milligan (middle) is presently starring within the musical “Kimberly Akimbo,” now on Broadway.

“I have a very big family and I know a lot of complicated people who have done some complicated things and who, in their minds, are doing their best,” Milligan instructed HuffPost. “So that’s how I approached Debra. She’s not maliciously trying to hurt people, but she will because she needs to survive. She didn’t have anybody looking out for her, so she looks out for herself, and that’s how she talks herself into not feeling bad about scamming people because, well, who looked out for her? Nobody. It’s just animal instinct taking over.”

She went on to notice: “She’s also a charismatic person that you want to be around. When I read the play, I saw love. Kimberly is her favorite person in the world, because she’s the only person who frankly likes being around her and does more than tolerate her. She knows what’s happening in Kim’s life. To me, that says love.”

“Kimberly Akimbo” marks Milligan’s first Broadway outing since her spectacular debut within the 2018 Go-Go’s musical “Head Over Heels,” which obtained optimistic evaluations however struggled to seek out an viewers. Earlier than that, she honed her craft in off-Broadway reveals like Ryan Scott Oliver and Hunter Foster’s “Jasper in Deadland,” in addition to on the live performance stage, the place she’s affectionately recognized to followers as “Belting Bonnie.”

On Milligan's bucket list: "At least one Hallmark Christmas movie."
On Milligan’s bucket record: “At least one Hallmark Christmas movie.”

However Milligan’s street again to Broadway was marked with setbacks that might have discouraged a much less tenacious artist. She was reeling from the untimely closing of “Head Over Heels” when she first realized of “Kimberly Akimbo,” forward of its premiere staging off-Broadway, in early 2020. On the time, an audition appeared out of the query, on condition that she’d returned to her native Ohio to are inclined to her father Invoice, who had lately been identified with late-stage pancreatic most cancers. He died about 5 weeks after her arrival.

As she grieved the loss, Milligan was in a position to postpone her digital tryout for “Kimberly Akimbo.” By the point she landed the half, nevertheless, theaters and different efficiency venues have been shuttered indefinitely to curb the unfold 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 factor Aunt Debra in “Kimberly Akimbo” shares with Milligan’s characters in “Head Over Heels” and different reveals is an unapologetic sense of self. It’s an attribute the actor and singer has intentionally sought to focus on in her performances, maybe in response to the challenges she’s skilled as a plus-size lady in present enterprise.

To that finish, Milligan has seen a little bit of a shift in recent times on Broadway, alluding to reveals like “Hadestown” and “Some Like It Hot,” which have featured actors with plus-size our bodies in principal roles.

"She’s not maliciously trying to hurt people, but she will because she needs to survive," Milligan said of her "Kimberly Akimbo" character.
“She’s not maliciously trying to hurt people, but she will because she needs to survive,” Milligan mentioned of her “Kimberly Akimbo” character.

“I’ve been able to be a fully formed artist, more than just somebody coming on for a quick fat or food joke, and completely bring myself in two shows,” she defined. “Body diversity isn’t something that we’ve always talked about, but I think [Broadway producers] are realizing the importance of audiences seeing themselves on the stage in a pleasant light as opposed to someone who is seen as unattractive. I do see a shift. I would love to see us shift more, of course, and maybe cast a plus-size person as a romantic lead. Let us be thriving, let us be attractive, let us be fully formed people because we are in the world.”

And if Milligan has her manner, an onscreen romance may very effectively be in her future, together with different movie, tv and theater initiatives.

“I feel like 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 done everything, and they continue to live and work in all these different spaces.”

“Honestly, I’d love to keep my toe in everything,” she added. “But the hope is just to have a career. I don’t need to be famous, but I just love to work. That’s the dream.”

“Kimberly Akimbo” is now enjoying at New York’s Sales space Theatre.

"I’ve been able to be a fully-formed artist, more than just somebody coming on for a quick fat or food joke, and fully bring myself in two shows," said Milligan (left, with "Kimberly Akimbo" co-star Victoria Clark).
“I’ve been able to be a fully-formed artist, more than just somebody coming on for a quick fat or food joke, and fully bring myself in two shows,” mentioned Milligan (left, with “Kimberly Akimbo” co-star Victoria Clark).

Bruce Glikas by way of Getty Photographs