A lucky handful of commercially-produced shows become flat-out hits that run for decades. Yet more than often, most shows buckle under the pressures of modern commercial theatre and are sadly forgotten. And then there are shows like Side Show — a show that struggled and quickly folded when first produced on Broadway in 1997. But then something unique happened — a core and ardent fan base emerged at the tail end of the show’s lifespan, which grew over time thanks to a cast album that featured the powerhouse, Tony-nominated performances of Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley as conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton.
Since then, the show has enjoyed many regional productions, including a recent Broadway revival (more on that later).
Back in ’97, many felt the show didn’t find an audience simply due to the subject matter, which is loosely based on the lives of the Hilton sisters who grew up as a side show centerpiece in the ’30s, and then catapulted to mainstream attention on the vaudeville circuit through a series of talent agents with questionable motives.
Side Show explores the human side of the sisters, including a heartbreaking love story. In fact, a quick Wikipedia search notes that the sister’s lives are even more heartbreaking than the musical suggests, with their manager ultimately abandoning them at a drive-in movie theatre, forcing them to work at a nearby grocery story and then dying from the flu.
Sure – the material isn’t pleasant. But the musical powerfully underscores the important notion that underneath the surface, we are all humans, looking for love and acceptance. And what’s a more beautiful and powerful message than that? Read the full review on The Huffington Post >