Re-Imagined Side Show Ends La Jolla Playhouse Run Dec. 15; Kennedy Center Run to Follow in 2014

By Adam Hetrick
15 Dec 2013

Emily Padgett and Erin Davie
Emily Padgett and Erin Davie
Photo by Rebecca Joelson

The premiere of the new incarnation of Side Show, the Tony Award-nominated Henry Krieger-Bill Russell musical about real-life conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, ends its La Jolla Playhouse engagement Dec. 15.

Directed by Academy Award winner Bill Condon ("Dreamgirls"), Side Show began previews Nov. 5 and officially opened Nov. 10. Condon has given new dramatic shape to the dark, pop-driven musical that has a score by Krieger (Dreamgirls) and Russell (Elegies for Angels...), who also wrote the book. This new, darker approach to the material incorporates new songs as well as additional biographical details of the Hilton twins' life and historical figures of the era.

Read critics reviews of Side Show.

Side Show will play a June 14-July 13, 2014, run at The Kennedy Center. A source close to the production told Playbill.com that the creative team is hopeful for a Broadway run. The musical has gained a large cult following since its brief Broadway run in 1997.



Among the new characters for this production of Side Show are Harry Houdini; Texas lawyer Martin Arnold; Loretta, a Hedda Hopper-like gossip columnist; as well as the characters of Auntie and Sir, based on the twins' real life caretakers Mary Hilton and her husband, who helped birth the U.K.-born twins and originally exploited them for monetary gain.

"Henry and I are thrilled to be doing more work with Bill Condon on this piece," book writer and lyricist Russell previously told Playbill.com. "We've already done quite a bit of rethinking, re-examining and revising of it together and his brilliance and passion for the show are inspiring. Long-time fans of the original should not be alarmed. Though we're excited by this opportunity to take another look at the material, the essence of the show is still intact."

Erin Davie (Grey Gardens, A Little Night Music) and Emily Padgett (Rock of Ages, Flashdance) co-star as Violet and Daisy, respectively, in a cast that also features Manoel Felciano (Sweeney Todd, Cabaret) as Terry Connor, Matthew Hydzik (West Side Story, Grease) as Buddy and David St. Louis (Jesus Christ Superstar, The Scarlet Pimpernel) as Jake.

The cast also boasts 2013 Tony Award nominee Keala Settle (Hands on a Hardbody) as the Fortune Teller, with Brandon Bieber (Follies) as Freak, Lauren Elder (Hair) as a member of the ensemble, Javier Ignacio (Forever Plaid) as Houdini, Robert Joy ("CSI: NY") as Sir, Kelvin Moon Loh (Here Lies Love) as Freak, Zonya Love (The Color Purple) as Hottentot, Barrett Martin (Nice Work if You Can Get It) as Ray/Freak, Don Richard (Wicked) as Martin Arnold/Freak, Blair Ross (Jekyll and Hyde) as Bearded Lady/Auntie, Matthew Patrick Davis (A Midsummer Night's Dream) as Freak, Nicholas Mongiardo-Cooper as Freak/Dr. Weldon, Hannah Shankman (Hair) as a member of the ensemble, as well as David Kirk Grant and Michelle London (Wicked) as swings.

The creative team features choreographer Anthony Van Laast, scenic designer David Rockwell, costume designer Paul Tazewell, lighting designers Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer and sound designer Kai Harada. Side Show has orchestrations by Harold Wheeler, with music supervision and arrangements by Sam Davis and musical direction by Greg Jarrett.

"Bill Condon is coming to the Playhouse to develop and stage a re-imagined script and score for Side Show with this hugely talented cast and crew. We can't wait to work with them as they breathe bewitching new life into this favorite of the American Musical Theatre," La Jolla artistic director Christopher Ashley said in a statement.

Side Show traces the lives of the Hilton twins from their rough upbringing in a traveling freak show, to their turn as celebrated Vaudeville stars, who were never able to live a life apart from the curious eyes of the public. A cast album preserves many of the songs from the original Broadway production, but large sections of Krieger and Russell's recitative that link the action were unrecorded.

Side Show debuted on Broadway Sept. 19, 1997, at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. Though its Broadway run was brief, at only 91 performances, Side Show has garnered a legion of fans. Robert Longbottom directed the original production that starred Tony nominee Emily Skinner and Tony Award winner Alice Ripley as Daisy and Violet Hilton, respectively. The actresses shared a Tony Award nomination for their work. The original cast also included Norm Lewis, Hugh Panaro and Jeff McCarthy.

Visit LaJollaPlayhouse.org.

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David St. Louis (center) with Emily Padgett, Erin Davie and the cast
Photo by Kevin Berne