Meet the teen quartet of ‘Kimberly Akimbo’ on Broadway
The musical’s ensemble, who play carefree high-schoolers opposite a mortality-obsessed classmate, discuss their roles, favorite songs, and the best anagram ever.
The musical Kimberly Akimbo revolves around a teenage girl who ages four times faster than usual.
The stark reality of what Kim (Victoria Clark) is up against comes into sharper focus thanks to four carefree classmates — Delia, Martin, Aaron, and Teresa. Collectively called the teen quartet, they’re played, respectively, by Olivia Elease Hardy, Fernell Hogan, Michael Iskander, and Nina White.
The foursome adds laughs, harmonies and depth to this “letter-perfect” musical, as New York Theatre Guide hailed Kimberly Akimbo in a five-star review.
“The teen quartet provides an essential contrast between Kim’s experience and a more normal experience of adolescence,” said White. In the show, Kim tells the teens that with lump-in-the-throat clarity: “Getting older is my affliction; getting older is your cure.”
Hogan puts that theme another way. “The most important thing to the four teens is that we have a crush on each other and that we want [show choir] costumes,” he said. “Then there’s Kim, who just turned 16, and whose average [life] expectancy is 16. Her clock is ticking and her time is lessening, and we’re just starting life.”
The bittersweetness of Kim’s life is captured in the funny-sad story and songs by composer Jeanine Tesori and author David Lindsay-Abaire, who adapted his 2000 play of the same name.
Days after the Kimberly Akimbo cast album dropped, the four actors, all in their 20s, talked about their favorite Kimberly Akimbo musical numbers, how they’ve shaped their characters and vice versa, and the fun they’ve had on- and offstage.
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On how the Kimberly Akimbo actors shaped their characters
Atlantic Theater Company premiered Kimberly Akimbo off Broadway with the same cast. Now, three of the foursome are making their Broadway debut (Hogan was in the chorus of The Prom). Making the leap from downtown to the Booth Theatre was a thrill — and so was being there as the show took its baby steps with director Jessica Stone.
“Each of the four teens have kind of been shaped by us,” explained Hardy. They all specified a character trait they respectively inspired: Aaron’s silly streak, Teresa’s anxiety, Martin’s showmanship, and Delia’s leadership.
“She gets shit done,” quipped Hardy.
Imprints are a two-way street: Kimberly Akimbo has left its mark on the actors, too. Hardy’s life lesson? “It does get better,” she said. Hogan’s takeaway is to “do what you want and be what you want – right now.”
White gained a deeper appreciation of dualities in life. “Kim is able to love her parents and see them as very flawed,” she observed.
“Kim taught me to focus on other people more and just listen,” said Iskander. “It’s all about the connections that we have with each other and the love that we give to each other. That’s what really matters.”
On hanging out after school
Doing eight shows a week means plenty of togetherness. But the teen quartet actors found a way to spend even more time in each other’s company. On February 19, they presented Akimbo After School at 54 Below.
During the concert, the quartet and their understudies covered Tesori’s tunes from Fun Home, Shrek The Musical, and Violet, along with Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, the Spice Girls, and Bruce Springsteen.
White described the lineup as “a mix of things – some of it just for fun.”
On their favorite Kimberly Akimbo songs
Of course, they sang Kimberly Akimbo songs as well, and each actor has their favorite from Tesori’s score.
“The Inevitable Turn” is Hardy’s number one choice because of its melody and mood. (Nobody asked, but I second that.) It’s a song in which Kim’s out-of-whack mother (Alli Mauzey), father (Steven Boyer), and aunt (Bonnie Milligan), who draws the quartet into a con, admit they can’t change their stripes.
Hardy’s top pick is “Hello, Baby,” which Kim’s dad sings to her unborn sibling. “My dad told me basically the same thing — that he wanted me to go and see the world,” she said. “That song holds a special place in my heart.”
Iskander’s favorite number is Mauzey’s “Father Time,” about stopping the clock. “Alli’s amazing,” he added.
White’s pick is Kim’s solo “Make A Wish.” “It’s a perfect musical theatre ‘I want’ song, and Vicky Clark is unbelievable,” she said. “I watch it every night. I love it.”
On making a Broadway hit, any way you spell it
One of the most fun moments in Kimberly Akimbo comes when word nerd Seth (Justin Cooley), a classmate who forges a life-changing relationship with Kim, turns her name into an anagram.
Seth does likewise for the teen quartet’s characters – and he’s not the only one. For the Off-Broadway opening, Lindsay-Abaire wrote postcards to the cast. “It was very sweet. He made anagrams of all of our names,” said White.
Fernell Hogan became “fell on a hanger,” and Olivia Elease Hardy turned into “heavily soiled area.” Nina White scrambled into a phrase that is music to any actor’s ears: “in a new hit.” That’s fitting for the entire Kimberly Akimbo cast.
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Top image credit: Nina White, Michael Iskander, Fernell Hogan, and Olivia Elease Hardy in Kimberly Akimbo. (Photo by Joan Marcus)
In-article photos by Ahron R. Foster
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