Thursday, November 20, 2014

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NY1 Theater Review: 'Side Show'

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The 1997 cult favorite "Side Show" is back on Broadway, but this time, with a revised script and score. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review of "Side Show" 2.0.

Full disclosure - I was a big fan of the original production. I found it utterly captivating. And now that it's back with a makeover, I think I like it even more. Of course, memory can play tricks but the revival feels like more of an ensemble effort. The musical based on the lives of conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton offers multiple joys starting with the bravura performances of its two leads.

The libretto by Bill Russell now features a second credit - additional material by Bill Condon who also directed this revival. The original closed inexplicably after just 91 performances and perhaps, anticipating a freak show, the audience was turned off. Well in fact, that aspect is dealt with head on this time, right from the opening number "Come Look At The Freaks."

And while it is creepy to see how cruelly exploitative side-shows could be, the production's success has much to do with its ability to get well beneath the deformed skins of its characters exposing their shared humanity.

The show is very generous to its terrific company and hats off to all the principle players who each get a chance to shine in the spotlight.

Henry Krieger's splendid score has many shades - rousing us with tunefully melodic ballads and setting the period with vaudeville-era ditties. And Condon's expert direction brings it all together seamlessly. His marvelous design team enhances the unified vision. The result - a deeply affecting emotional trip through the lives of these two fascinating women.

That fascination is perhaps all due to their deep desire to be normal and the way that actresses Erin Davie and Emily Padgett portray them as very separate beings. In voice and performance, they are a thing of beauty!

Given all the weirdness in the show, its style and structure is actually pretty conventional. But don't get the wrong idea, as musicals go, this one's quite extraordinary!

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