Original Broadway theatre poster
|Basis||The lives of Daisy and Violet Hilton|
Side Show is a musical by Bill Russell (book and lyrics) and Henry Krieger (music) based on the lives of Daisy and Violet Hilton, a circus act of conjoined twins who became famous stage performers in the 1930s.
The musical opened on Broadway on October 16, 1997. Robert Longbottom directed and choreographed, and the cast starred Emily Skinner as Daisy and Alice Ripley as Violet. Despite receiving some positive reviews, the show closed on January 3, 1998 after 91 performances. The show has been revived regionally and also on Broadway over the 2014–2015 holiday season.
The Boss, the ringmaster of a sideshow, introduces the exhibits: the bearded lady, a geek, the Cannibal King, the seraglio of a Hashemite sheik, and, lastly, his star attraction, the Siamese twins ("Come Look at the Freaks"). Buddy Foster, an aspiring musician, brings Terry Connor, a talent scout for the Orpheum Circuit, to see the Siamese twins, persuading him to enter the show all the way. Coerced ominously in by the Boss, Buddy thinks he could help them create an act and convinces Terry to meet them. The two men interrupt a birthday party for the girls ("Happy Birthday To You And To You").
Terry asks their names and they respond, "I'm Daisy" and "I'm Violet". He then asks them their dreams ("Like Everyone Else"); Violet, the gentler of the two, wants a normal life of a husband and home; Daisy, on the other hand, seeks fame and fortune. Terry tells them he wants to help their dreams come true ("You Deserve a Better Life"). After the Boss rudely refuses Terry's offer to be cut in on the twins' potential vaudeville career ("Crazy, Deaf and Blind"), Terry devises a scheme whereby Buddy will teach the girls a song. Jake, an African-American who plays the Cannibal King in the sideshow and is the twins' friend and protector, begs them to consider what they're getting into and the whole sideshow family adds its opinion ("The Devil You Know").
Two weeks later, Terry returns to see the twins perform and Buddy tells him how the personal dynamics with the girls are getting sticky ("More Than We Bargained For"). Before their secret late-night performance, the twins confess to each other how infatuated they are with the two men who've come into their lives ("Feelings You've Got to Hide").
The Hilton Sisters' secret debut is a great success ("When I'm By Your Side"). But the Boss discovers the subterfuge and physically threatens the twins when they tell him they're leaving the sideshow. Jake comes to their rescue and the other attractions threaten to leave also, causing the Boss to back down. Daisy, Violet and Jake, whom Terry has invited to help backstage on the twins' tour, bid farewell to their sideshow family ("Say Goodbye to the Freak Show").
It's time for the twins' first public performance, and Terry invites a group of reporters together before the show ("Overnight Sensation"). Before their vaudeville debut, the twins argue about their different ways of expressing interest in men ("Leave Me Alone"). Onstage they sing "We Share Everything" in a production number featuring them as queens of ancient Egypt.
After the twins' performing triumph, Terry and Buddy shower them with kisses. Hostile reporters ask tough questions about the girls' love life ("The Interview"). Terry and Buddy deny any romantic inclinations, leaving the twins to wonder if they will ever find romantic fulfillment ("Who Will Love Me as I Am?").
The second act opens with the Hilton Sisters at the height of their success - a Follies-style production number ("Rare Songbirds on Display"). Daisy's dream of stardom has come true but Violet seems no closer to her dream of finding a husband.
At a fancy New Year's Eve party, Buddy tries to cheer up Violet and ends up proposing marriage ("New Year's Day"). Afterwards, Terry imagines what it would be like to be alone with Daisy ("Private Conversation").
In an onstage number ("One Plus One Equals Three"), Buddy, Violet and Daisy issue an upbeat invitation to their wedding. But backstage both Daisy and Buddy separately express doubts as to how the arrangement will work. Jake overhears Buddy and, in an effort to save Violet from seemingly imminent heartbreak, confesses that he has loved her for years ("You Should Be Loved").
The night before Violet and Buddy's wedding as the grand finale of the Texas Centennial, Daisy is feeling left out. To appease her, Terry suggests going where they could be more-or-less alone together ("Tunnel of Love").
The big day arrives. Hawkers sell tickets and souvenirs ("Beautiful Day for a Wedding"). But in the dressing area, complications arise. Jake announces he is leaving. Buddy confesses he's not strong enough to marry Violet. Daisy offers a solution which will ensure a movie contract dependent on the wedding publicity ("Marry Me, Terry"). Terry cannot bring himself to publicly acknowledge what he feels for Daisy. She dismisses him and insists that Violet and Buddy go through with the ceremony, which will at least benefit everyone's career. Left alone, the twins find solace in each other ("I Will Never Leave You"). As the wedding proceeds, they reprise "Come Look at the Freaks" with full understanding and acceptance of who they are and what they are doing.
Side Show opened on Broadway on October 16, 1997 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Robert Longbottom directed and choreographed, the sets were by Robin Wagner, costumes by Gregg Barnes and lighting by Brian MacDevitt. The cast starred Emily Skinner as Daisy Hilton and Alice Ripley as Violet Hilton. Despite receiving some positive reviews, the show closed on January 3, 1998 after 31 previews and 91 regular performances.
Original Broadway cast
- Emily Skinner as Daisy Hilton
- Alice Ripley as Violet Hilton
- Norm Lewis as Jake
- Jeff McCarthy as Terry Connor, press agent
- Hugh Panaro as Buddy Foster
- Ken Jennings as The Boss
It was nominated for four Tony Awards in 1998. Although Side Show won none of these awards, it was the first and only time that two actresses were co-nominated for Best Actress in a Musical as a team. At the Tony Awards ceremony, the two stars performed the show's most popular number, "I Will Never Leave You". Ripley and Skinner later released two albums of duets (Duets and Unsuspecting Hearts), as well as a live recording of their 2006 reunion concert ("Skinner/Ripley: Raw at Town Hall").
Regional theatre productions
In 1998, TheatreWorks near San Francisco produced Side Show at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. The production was a critical and popular success, receiving the Garland Award (Los Angeles) and various Dean Goodman Critics Choice Awards (San Francisco). The production afforded TheatreWorks its largest first day of ticket sales on their records for a single production. Subsequently, 2 extra performances were added to meet the demand. The production was directed by Robert Kelley and Bick Goss (Goss also choreographed). Kristin Behrendt, who had been a standby for (and performed) the role of Violet in the original Broadway cast, played the role of Daisy.
The show then had several successful regional productions throughout the country, including in 1999 in Denver, Colorado, by the Physically Handicapped Actors & Musical Artists League. While many were initially uncomfortable with the idea of disabled actors portraying "side show freaks", the production was well received and was presented with several awards, including the Denver Mayor's Award for Excellence in the Arts.
An abridged version of Side Show was presented at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. October 2–5, 2008 as part of their Broadway: Three Generations production. Jenn Colella and Lisa Brescia played Daisy and Violet, respectively, Bobby Steggert played Buddy, and Max von Essen played Terry.
Revised version; Broadway revival
A revised version of the musical ran at the La Jolla Playhouse in La Jolla, California, in late 2013. Bill Condon directed, with Erin Davie as Violet and Emily Padgett as Daisy. The show has a "darker approach" and "incorporates new songs as well as additional biographical details of the Hilton twins' life and historical figures of the era." Several new songs were added. In Act 1, Terry sings "Very Well Connected" to try to convince the twins that he can get them booked on the Orpheum Circuit. Buddy teaches the girls a song called "Typical Girls Next Door". During a backstory flashback, British physicians sing "Cut Them Apart" while the girls sing "I Will Never Leave You" for the first time. Harry Houdini teaches the girls to tune out all distractions around them in order to get some private time ("All in the Mind"). When the girls are being brought to the US, Sir sings "Come See a New Land" (Come Look at the Freaks reworked). The twins' first big performance is a new song, "Ready to Play." Act 2 opens with a new number, "Stuck With You", featuring the twins, Buddy, and a boy with whom Buddy seems to be having a relationship. This is followed by "Leave Me Alone", moved to Act 2. "New Year's Day" was reworked and added to "New Year's Eve". "Tunnel of Love" was reworked as "A Great Wedding Show." Several other songs from the original were cut: "You Deserve a Better Life", "Crazy, Deaf and Blind", "More Than We Bargained For", "When I'm By Your Side", "Overnight Sensation", "We Share Everything", "Rare Songbirds on Display", and "Beautiful Day for a Wedding".
The production next played at the Kennedy Center in June and July 2014. with choreography by Anthony Van Laast, scenic design by David Rockwell, costumes by Paul Tazewell, lighting by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer and sound by Kai Harada. The cast starred Davie and Padgett and also featured Matthew Hydzik as Buddy Foster, Robert Joy as Sir, Ryan Silverman as Terry Connor and David St. Louis as Jake.
The production began previews on Broadway at the St. James Theatre on October 28, 2014, opening officially on November 16, with the same cast. Despite very positive reviews, the revival did not catch on with audiences and is scheduled to close on January 4, 2015 after only seven weeks.
|1998||Tony Award||Best Musical||Nominated|
|Best Book of a Musical||Bill Russell||Nominated|
|Best Original Score||Henry Krieger and Bill Russell||Nominated|
|Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical||Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner||Nominated|
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Actress in a Musical||Alice Ripley||Nominated|
- Lefkowitz, David and Viagas, Robert. Side Show Cast and Fans Campaign To Save the Show", playbill.com, December 24, 1997
- Side Show is Closing, December 23, 1997
- Viagas, Robert and Simonson, Robert. " 'Ragtime', 'Lion King', 'Beauty Queen' Lead Tony Nominations", playbill.com, May 4, 1998
- McGrath, Sean, Christine Ehren and David Lefkowitz. "Last Chance to Look At The Freaks; CA TheatreWorks Side Show, Closes Nov. 8", playbill.com, November 6, 1998
- Gans, Andrew. "Steggert, Kritzer, Snyder and More Join Kennedy Center's Three Generations; Jones to Host" playbill.com, September 16, 2008
- Hetrick, Adam. "Re-Imagined 'Side Show' Ends La Jolla Playhouse Run Dec. 15; Kennedy Center Run to Follow in 2014" playbill.com, December 15, 2013
- Gans, Andrew. " "They'll Haunt You for Weeks": Erin Davie and Emily Padgett Escape the Side Show, Starting June 14" playbill.com, June 14, 2014
- Gerard, Jeremy. "Broadway Stunner: $8M ‘Side Show’ Reboot Will Shutter January 4", Deadline.com, December 12, 2014