Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner as Violet and Daisy Hilton
|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 show starred Alice Ripley as Violet and Emily Skinner as Daisy. It opened on Broadway on October 16, 1997, and ran for 91 performances at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Despite receiving some positive reviews, the show closed on January 4, 1998. It was later 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 (if they had won, they would have won together). At the Tony Awards ceremony, the two stars performed the show's most popular number, "I Will Never Leave You". Alice Ripley and Emily 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").
Other members of the cast who have gone on to successful endeavors on Broadway include Jeff McCarthy (Urinetown), Hugh Panaro (The Phantom of Opera, Lestat), Norm Lewis (The Wild Party, Dessa Rose, Les Misérables, The Little Mermaid) and J. Robert Spencer (Jersey Boys, Next to Normal).
The show has had several successful regional productions throughout the country, and has attained a loyal "cult" following. One notable regional premiere was the 1999 Denver production by the Physically Handicapped Actors & Musical Artists League. While many were initially uncomfortable with the idea of disabled actors portraying "freaks", the production was ultimately 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 DC 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.
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 refuses 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 aks 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.
Original Broadway Cast
- Emily Skinner as Daisy Hilton
- Alice Ripley as Violet Hilton
- Norm Lewis as Jake
- Jeff McCarthy as Terry Connor
- Hugh Panaro as Buddy Foster
- Ken Jennings as The Boss
First Post-Broadway Regional Production
In 1998, TheatreWorks, a critically acclaimed professional theater company on the San Francisco Peninsula, produced the first post-Broadway production of Side Show at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts. TheatreWorks received national attention within the theatrical community for being the first regional theater to gain access to the rights to mount the production, closely on the heels of the recently closed Broadway production. TheatreWorks' 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.
TheatreWorks' production was directed by Robert Kelley and Bick Goss (Goss also choreographed) with musical direction by Lita Libaek. In an interesting twist, the production featured actress Kristin Behrendt playing the role of Daisy. Behrendt had been the standby for (and performed) the role of Violet (Daisy's other "half") in the original Broadway cast.
Principals in the TheatreWorks production:
- Kristin Behrendt as Daisy
- Debra Wiseman as Violet
- AJ Vincent as Terry Connor
- Pierce Peter Brandt as Buddy Foster
- Stephonne Smith as Jake
- Ron Josef Meier as The Boss
Awards and Nominations
Original Broadway Production
|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|