As many of you know, I am a HUGE theater buff and seeing live musicals is one of my greatest pleasures. Well, in 1997 (the year my hubby and I began dating) we took a trip to NYC and went to see a little known Broadway show called Side Show, and although it garnered critical acclaim and four Tony Award nominations, it’s run was brief lasting under 100 performances because the topic wasn’t mainstream enough to captivate mass audiences.
However, in contrast to popular consensus, my progressive boyfriend and I LOVED it, and to this day it’s one of our favorite Broadway musicals of all times. We loved how provocative the story was, how stellar the talent was and how haunting and indelible the music was. And it’s been a hard act to follow after all these years, so as you can imagine, when I heard that a re-imagined version of Side Show was coming to the La Jolla Playhouse, I just had to see it!
The La Jolla Playhouse’s production of Side Show has been freshened, modernized and reimagined by Academy Award Winning Screenwriter Bill Condon, best known for his big screen adaptations of Chicago and Dreamgirls. In addition, several seasoned Broadway actors have been cast in leading roles including leading ladies Erin Davie (from Grey Gardens) as Violet Hilton and Emily Padgett (from Rock of Ages) as Daisy Hilton, as well as hunk David St. Louis as Jake (from Harlem Song.)
Side Show is based on the true story of conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton who became stars during the depression. This musical version of their story portrays an emotional tale of two women joined at the hip who share an extraordinary physical and emotional bond. The story takes you on their emotional journey of what it would be like to spend your life attached/tied into another. How do you have privacy? How can you have an intimate relationship with another? Sex? Provocative and riveting stuff!
So, what did I think of this new version of Side Show? Surprisingly, I really enjoyed it! I found it darker and a bit more twisted and sinister than the original, I found the supporting characters more over-the-top in a good way (the other Side Show freaks were so much richer and darker than the original)
I found the leading actresses seasoned and impressively talented, making me believe they really were joined at the hip. Their harmonies were amazing, definitely on par with the original Broadway leading ladies.
I also really liked David St. Louis as Jake, his deep sexy alto voice and impressive physique definitely captivated me – although my heart still belongs to the original Jake (Norm Lewis) who I recently met backstage on Broadway after his awesome protrayl in Porgy & Bess.
I also really liked the additional depth of storytelling/telling of the backstory of the Hilton sisters and how they ended up in the side show and about their journey to fame. This new version makes an effort to fill in alot of the story holes for the viewer and makes you feel more connected to their plight. In my opinion, the only drawback of this new version is that some of the new songs didn’t quite seem like a stylistic sync with the original songs, which I have been listening to for years. But for someone who has never seen it, this probably won’t be a distraction.
Overall, this new Side Show was a refreshing, entertaining, engaging and more modern version of the original and I would definitely recommend seeing before it closes on December 15th, 2013!