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"Side Show" Is Revived at the St. James Theatre

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Darren Bagert, Martin Massman, Jayne Baron Sherman
Joan Raffe & Jhett Tolentino, Universal Stage Productions
et al.

Side Show
(Side Show Website)

Book and Lyrics by Bill Russell
Music by Henry Krieger
additional book material by Bill Condon

St. James Theatre
246 West 44th Street

Erin Davie, Emily Padgett,
Matthew Hydzik, Robert Joy, Ryan Silverman, David St. Louis

And an ensemble of actors/singers/dancers

Directed by Bill Condon
Choreographed by Anthony Van Laast
Musical Direction and Arrangements by Sam Davis

Scenic Design: David Rockwell
Costume Design: Paul Tazewell
Lighting Design: Jules Fisher & Peggy Eisenhauer
Sound Design: Peter Hylenski
Special Makeup Effects Design: Dave Elsey & Lou Elsey
Hair & Wig Design: Charles G. LaPointe
Makeup Design: Cookie Jordan
Illusion Design: Paul Kieve
Casting: Laura Stanczyk Casting
Orchestrations: Harold Wheeler
Music Coordinator: Howard Joines
Original Arrangements: David Chase
Vocal Supervisor: Liz Caplan
Creative Supervisor: Jack Tantleff
Production Stage Manager: Linda Marvel
Production Management: Juniper Street Productions
Associate Director: Dave Solomon
Press: O&M Co.
Advertising: SPOTCO
Marketing: Type A Marketing
General Management: Foresight Theatrical

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 19, 2014

The current revival of Bill Russell and Henry Krieger’s Side Show is so mesmerizing and enthralling that I did not want it to end. The stunningly talented cast, drawn for New York and national stages, sings with semi-operatic quality, seizing the spotlight in each poignant scene, whether in solo, duo, or ensemble pieces. This is a show about shows, the circus side show, formerly called “the freaks”. As the curtain opens we see a fascinating array of amazingly costumed and decorated characters: a 3-legged man, a tattoo girl, a lizard man, a half man/half woman, a fortune teller, and so on. The sniveling man who orders the side show characters about is called Sir (Robert Joy). But Mr. Joy has a prize act, the conjoined Hilton twins, Daisy (Emily Padgett) and Violet (Erin Davie). The twins are joined at the hip forever, and, lucky for them, they have avoided high risk surgery, as their mother fled, horrified, leaving them to an aunt, who sold them to Sir. The “freak” ensemble lives like a family, as they travel about in dingy circus shows. “Come Look at the Freaks” is the opening and closing number, sung with pathos and pride.

One of the more gruesome side show figures is a “cannibal man”, later transformed into Sir’s travel manager, Jake (David St. Louis), one of the most compelling performers onstage, who falls in love with Violet, even though he’d be living with two, not one. Mr. St. Louis sings with vibrancy and richness, in very convincing drama. But the warmest spotlight shines on Daisy and Violet, in scintillating solos, blended duets, and even in imaginary solo turns onstage (without the other twin), as we are awarded the opportunity to view each alone, if only for a moment. Ms. Padgett and Ms. Davie each sing with extraordinary range, persuasive presence, and tonal lushness. We will surely see more of these rising stars in the years to come. When producer, Terry Connor (Ryan Silverman) and choreographer, Buddy Foster (Matthew Hydzik) arrive to check out the twins for vaudeville stars, Violet is enamored, of sorts, with Buddy, whose intimate relationships involve men, and Terry longs to escape with Daisy (after some high-risk, medical procedures). The four are destined for unrequited love, and, as the story unfolds, it seems the twins narrowly escape a far worse fate, thanks to some luck and Daisy’s strength of mind. The story of the real, conjoined Hilton twins is here.

Ms. Davie and Ms. Padgett exude an exquisite aura, and their highlighted songs, “I Will Never Leave You” and “Who Will Love Me As I Am?”, resonate, long after the show has ended. The conniving aunt, Blair Ross, is just as slithery as Robert Joy’s Sir, and Kelvin Moon Loh, as Half Man/Half Woman, is stunning, with half of his hair and makeup and clothing that of a woman, attached to a seamless man’s costume. Dave Elsey and Lou Elsey created special effects and makeup, with astounding ingenuity. Charles G. LaPointe was the designer of hair and wig design, with equally impressive results. Cookie Jordan and Paul Kieve are respectively listed for makeup design and illusion design, and there are spellbinding, circus stage tricks here and there. Bill Condon has directed for poignancy, show-stopping, star solos, and luminous stage presence, for each and every character in this busy cast. The ensemble of fourteen includes actors that jump in and out of the freak makeup and costumes. I can just imagine the tough, scenic timing backstage. Greg Jarrett was tonight’s conductor, with a gorgeously tuned orchestra. Anthony Van Laast, choreographer, and Brandon Bieber, dance captain, keep the motion gripping. Sam Davis’ arrangements brought verve and vivacity to each song. David Rockwell’s scene shifted from seedy circus to flashy vaudeville, as did Paul Tazewell’s costumes, all splendidly detailed. Lighting and sound were warm and glowing. This show should fill the theater for years, like Cabaret and Phantom of the Opera. It is that good. Kudos to Bill Russell and Henry Krieger.

Emily Padgett and Erin Davie
in a scene from "Side Show"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

The cast of "Side Show"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at