Side Show

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Side Show
Side Show 1997 Poster.jpg
Original Broadway theatre poster
MusicHenry Krieger
LyricsBill Russell
BookBill Russell
BasisThe lives of Daisy and Violet Hilton
Productions1997 Broadway
2014 Broadway revival
2016 Off West End

Side Show is a musical by Bill Russell (book and lyrics) and Henry Krieger (music) based on the lives of Daisy and Violet Hilton, conjoined twins who became famous stage performers in the 1930s.

The musical opened October 16, 1997, on Broadway; 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 after 91 performances. A Broadway revival opened in November 2014, and closed after 56 performances.


Act I[edit]

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?").

Act II[edit]

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.

Musical Numbers[edit]

Original Broadway Production[edit]

Broadway Revival Production[edit]


Major Production Casts
Character Original Broadway Cast (1997) Kennedy Center Cast (2008) First Broadway Revival (2014) Original London Cast (2016)
Daisy Hilton Emily Skinner Jenn Colella Emily Padgett Louise Dearman
Violet Hilton Alice Ripley Lisa Brescia Erin Davie Laura Pitt-Pulford
Terry Connor Jeff McCarthy Max von Essen Ryan Silverman Haydn Oakley
Jake Norm Lewis Michael McElroy David St. Louis Jay Marsh
Buddy Foster Hugh Panaro Bobby Steggert Matthew Hydzik Dominic Hodson
The Boss/Sir Ken Jennings Michael Mulheren Robert Joy Christopher Howell

Production history[edit]

Original production[edit]

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.[1][2] Original producers were Manny Azenberg and Wayne Rogers (after his appearances on M*A*S*H and House Calls). [3]

Original Broadway cast[edit]

Also featured was J. Robert Spencer.

It was nominated for four Tony Awards in 1998.[4] 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.[citation needed] 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").[citation needed]

Regional theatre productions[edit]

In 1998, TheatreWorks near San Francisco produced the regional premiere of Side Show at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts.[5] The production was a critical and popular success, receiving the Garland Award (Los Angeles) and various Dean Goodman Critics Choice Awards (San Francisco).[citation needed] 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.[citation needed] 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 cast also included Debra Wiseman (Bullets Over Broadway, The Scarlet Pimpernel) as Violet, AJ Vincent (The Will Rogers Follies) as Terry (Dean Goodman Critics Choice Award Best Actor in a Musical), Pierce Peter Brandt (Les Miserables, Martin Guerre) as Buddy, and Stephonne Smith (The Scarlet Pimpernel) as Jake.

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.[citation needed]

In 2001, Signature Theatre Company's production starred Amy Goldberger (Daisy), Sherri Edelen (Violet), Will Gartshore (Buddy Foster) Matt Bogart (Terry Connor), Eric Jordan Young (Jake), and Michael Sharp (The Boss).[6]

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.[7]

Revised version; Broadway revival[edit]

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."[8] 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.[9]

The production began previews on Broadway at the St. James Theatre on October 28, 2014, opening officially on November 17, with the same cast. Despite very positive reviews, the revival did not catch on with audiences and closed on January 4, 2015 after only seven weeks.[10]


The musical made its UK premiere in 2016 at the Southwark Playhouse in London for a limited run, running from October 21, 2016 to December 3, 2016.[11] Directed by Hannah Chissick, the cast featured Louise Dearman (Daisy) and Laura Pitt-Pulford (Violet), with Dominic Hodson as Buddy Foster.[12][13]

University Productions[edit]

The first collegiate production of the reworked version of Side Show was produced as an immersive theatrical experience by USC School of Dramatic Arts in October, 2016[14] and featured real twins. Daisy was played by Selene Julia Klasner and Violet by Carson Klasner.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Broadway production[edit]

Year Award ceremony Category Nominee Result
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 Nominated
Emily Skinner Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actress in a Musical Alice Ripley Nominated
Drama League Award Distinguished Production of a Musical Nominated

2014 Broadway revival[edit]

Year Award ceremony Category Nominee Result
2015 Drama Desk Award Outstanding Revival of a Musical Nominated
Outstanding Actor in a Musical Ryan Silverman Nominated
Outstanding Actress in a Musical Erin Davie Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Musical Bill Condon Nominated
Outstanding Sound Design Peter Hylenski Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Revival of a Musical Nominated
Helen Hayes Award
For the Kennedy Center production
Outstanding Musical Won
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical Erin Davie Nominated
Emily Padgett Nominated
Outstanding Ensemble in a Musical Won
Outstanding Director of a Musical Bill Condon Nominated
Outstanding Choreography in a Musical Anthony Van Laast Nominated
Outstanding Costume Design Paul Tazewell Won

2016 Off-West End production[edit]

Year Award Ceremony Category Nominee Result
2017 Awards Best Regional Production Nominated


  1. ^ Lefkowitz, David and Viagas, Robert. Side Show Cast and Fans Campaign To Save the Show" Archived 2014-07-14 at the Wayback Machine,, December 24, 1997
  2. ^ Side Show is Closing, December 23, 1997
  3. ^ "Mash's Wayne Rogers Part 5 of 5 Pop Goes the Culture" (@03:00 of 22:59) Pop Goes the Culture TV
  4. ^ Viagas, Robert and Simonson, Robert. " 'Ragtime', 'Lion King', 'Beauty Queen' Lead Tony Nominations" Archived 2014-07-14 at the Wayback Machine,, May 4, 1998
  5. ^ McGrath, Sean, Christine Ehren and David Lefkowitz. "Last Chance to Look At The Freaks; CA TheatreWorks Side Show, Closes Nov. 8" Archived 2014-07-14 at the Wayback Machine,, November 6, 1998
  6. ^
  7. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Steggert, Kritzer, Snyder and More Join Kennedy Center's Three Generations; Jones to Host" Archived 2014-07-14 at the Wayback Machine, September 16, 2008
  8. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "Re-Imagined 'Side Show' Ends La Jolla Playhouse Run Dec. 15; Kennedy Center Run to Follow in 2014" Archived 2014-06-27 at the Wayback Machine, December 15, 2013
  9. ^ Gans, Andrew. " "They'll Haunt You for Weeks": Erin Davie and Emily Padgett Escape the Side Show, Starting June 14" Archived 2014-06-17 at the Wayback Machine, June 14, 2014
  10. ^ Gerard, Jeremy. "Broadway Stunner: $8M ‘Side Show’ Reboot Will Shutter January 4",, December 12, 2014
  11. ^ Side Show,
  12. ^ Clarendon, Emma. "Initial Casting Announced for 'Side Show'", May 14, 2016
  13. ^ Johnson, Gareth. " 'Side Show' – Southwark Playhouse, London", September 14, 2016
  14. ^

External links[edit]