Musicals are my favorite, especially musical comedy musicals. I am a huge fan of musicals and will recommend them to anyone who is interested. Hamilton didn’t need my help, neither did The Producers nor The Book of Mormon. But ask anyone who knows me how much I tried to push them to see Bullets Over Broadway or Something Rotten or any show with Jackie Hoffman!
Similar enthusiasm is expressed for the new musical Some Like It HOT, which is based on the classic film. I didn’t expect to enjoy watching such a classic movie “reimagined” and wondered how they could present a buddy comedy about two men who hide in drag in 2023. It was not to be. After I had recommended it and stated that it was my favorite musical in years, and that I couldn’t believe it wouldn’t win the Tony for best musical. I was then told it would not stand against Kimberly, a comedy about an 17-year-old girl who has a fatal aging condition. As I began to read the reviews, doubt started to creep in.
Here are a few:
The New York Times – “The season’s most powerful new musical… profoundly funny, and heartbreaking.”
The Hollywood Reporter – “Meet your favorite musical!”
New York Stage Review – “The sweet musical treat that we need right now.”
The Wall Street Journal – “The best musical of this year, by far.”
Entertainment Weekly “leaves you floating on good vibes.”
Variety – “An oddball musical it’s impossible to not love.”
I was determined to find out for myself. It was impossible to love Kimberly Akimbo, and I found it frankly disgusting.
This opinion is not meant to diminish the star Victoria Clarke (63), who plays Kimberly. Clarke portrays a teenage girl with a disease that makes her look like Clarke. The show, written by David Lindsay-Abraire, with music by Jeanine Tsori, was dull, boring, repetitive, cliched and unnecessarily foul mouthed. That was only the first act. Although I considered leaving at intermission, I stayed, motivated by the idea that somethingwould be in the second act. This would justify the unanimous praises. (As you will see from the above list, I searched in vain for someone who would agree with me.
Here’s where I lost it: the curtain went up on the second act in Kimberly’s basement. Bonnie Milligan plays Aunt Debra, a sly and evil character who was recently released from jail for an unspecified offense. She has managed to steal a full-sized USPS mailbox and get it into the basement of the family’s home, along with a large copier. What is the purpose of stealing a blue mailbox? What is the matter with the copier, you ask? This is the first part.
The opening song of a second act is often one of the most memorable numbers in a show. Think “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina”, in Evita, or “Masquerade”, in The Phantom of the Opera. This song is called “How to Wash a check” and it shows exactly how to remove checks from a mailbox using solvent. Then, you Xerox the envelopes to make a fake but real check that can be paid to the criminal. Perhaps I am biased, as I have spent dozens of hours on the phone, in banks, at police stations, and dealing with the aftermath this crime. It is estimated that it defrauded banks of nearly a billion dollars last year.
This “lesson”, which is staged as a comedy, is the heart of the show’s plot. Clarke plays the role of a grandmother, cashing fake checks to obtain the funds she needs to fulfill her wish. She is able to dress up in glittery costumes and take a road trip to Disneyworld to make her wish come true. (Even this is akimbo, since earlier in the play Kimberly qualifies for the actual Make-A-Wish-Foundation’s dream fulfillment and requests … a treehouse.)
Are we expecting the show to convey the message that crime doesn’t pay? Federal crimes should be punished. This is not reality. The show ends with the money being successfully stolen and the friends wearing Chorus line-quality, sexy outfits. Kimmy watches as the curtain drops, dreamily, while enjoying the Disneyworld rides. I saw the woman sitting next to me with tears streaming down her face. She wasn’t expecting that all of them would be in jail for bank fraud.
Are you living in an alternate universe or am I dreaming? I was reading the unanimous praises for this show, with not a mention of “How to Wash a Check” or the centrality and theft to the plot. I thought, “Perhaps I am.” I would love to talk about the merits of this production to anyone who has, and to urge anyone who hasn’t to go.