Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Musical about Conjoined Twins Is Softened

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Musical about Conjoined Twins Is Softened

Article excerpt

"Side Show," a musical loosely based on the lives of the Hilton sisters, conjoined twins who became vaudeville stars in the 1930s, is about, among other things, deeply conflicted emotions.

Conflicted feelings of another kind can be detected in the decisions made about what kind of musical it should be. The result is that, although there are lovely and touching moments throughout, the evening fails to be fully satisfying.

The production, which opened Monday night at the St. James Theatre, is a significantly changed revival of a darker "Side Show" that opened on Broadway in 1997, and closed after a short run.

Director Bill Condon, making his Broadway debut after a successful career as a filmmaker, including directing the entertaining, brightly colored adaptation of the Broadway musical "Dreamgirls," has tried to have it all by lightening the sisters' affecting and sober story with the surface fun of musical comedy.

He begins powerfully with "Come Look at the Freaks," a vivid introduction to the side-show attractions - Dog Boy, Half-Man/Half- Woman, Human Pin Cushion, Three-Legged Man - who perform with the sisters, the exhibit's stars.

They're all controlled by the evil, manipulative owner of the show (a properly repellent Robert Joy), who's also the twins' legal guardian.

The sisters, meanwhile, state their desires, blatantly, in "(I Want to Be) Like Everyone Else," a song that also serves to establish them as individuals. Violet (Erin Davie) wishes to "settle down, never to roam, find a nice husband and home," while Daisy (Emily Padgett) "wants to be like other people, but richer and more acclaimed."

They're spotted in the freak show by Terry Connor (Ryan Silverman), a shady talent booker, and his sincere pal, Buddy Foster (Matthew Hydzik), an entertainer, who persuade them to try vaudeville.

Without our seeing any preparation, the naive girls reappear as a confident, glamorously made-up, sexily dressed song-and-dance act.

Throughout the show, the women's dramatic plight of desiring to be "normal" yet always being seen as oddities -- which is, indeed, the reason for their success - is softened by Broadway-style production numbers and cutely titled songs: "Very Well Connected," "Stuck With You," "One Plus One Equals Three. …

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