Sunday, November 23, 2014

Side Show ***

I didn’t see this cult musical during its brief Broadway run in 1997, so I can’t comment on whether this new version is an improvement over the original. The score by Henry Krieger (music) and Bill Russell (lyrics) has replaced some old songs with new ones and Russell’s book has had substantial new material added by director Bill Condon. The subject may be unconventional — the story of the show biz career of the conjoined Hilton twins — the extroverted Daisy (Emily Padgett) and the reclusive Violet (Erin Davie) — but the book seemed quite conventional. The early scenes in the side show are unnervingly graphic in their depiction of the freaks. The flashback to the twins’ early life in England seemed unnecessary. Robert Joy is chilling as Sir, the show’s proprietor who thinks he owns the twins. David St. Louis is a vocal powerhouse as Jake (a/k/a King of the Cannibals), employed by Sir to keep an eye on the twins. Ryan Silverman is Terry Connor, the talent scout who wants to make vaudeville stars out of the twins. Matthew Hydzik is Terry’s pal Buddy Foster, the song and dance man tasked with readying them for the stage. Violet has feelings for Buddy, Jake has feelings for Violet and Ryan has hidden (too well hidden) feelings for Daisy. The arrival of Hollywood filmmaker Tod Browning carries a promise of success that is never realized. Padgett and Davie are quite strong both vocally and dramatically. Krieger’s fine music is often dragged down by Russell’s leaden lyrics. David Rockwell’s scenic design and Paul Tazewell’s costumes are excellent. While the show seemed a bit lumpy, it nevertheless managed to deeply engage my feelings for its characters. Running time: two hours 30 minutes including intermission.

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