Music by Henry Krieger
Directed by Michael Weber
Music Direction by Aaron Benham
Choreography by Andrew Waters
Produced by Porchlight Music Theatre, Chicago
At Stage 773 Chicago
Stunning Heartfelt Revision of Side Show is a “Can’t Miss” Hit
I first saw Side Show in 2006 in a terrific production by BoHo Theatre. However, Porchlight Music Theatre’s current production of Side Show is the Chicago premiere of the revised version that appeared on Broadway in 2014 that contains some new songs, characters, and a more personal portrait of Daisy and Violet Hilton, the conjoined twins. This production, under the smart direction by Michael Weber, is an amazing triumph! This ambitiously well-crafted production is heartfelt, tuneful, and inspirational as it entertains and captures the essence of what it is to be “different” or a “freak.”
Side Show grabs us from the start with the “Come Look At The Freaks” number from the side show’s midway. We meet the conjoined twins, Daisy (Colleen Fee) and Violet (Britt-Marie Siversten), who sing that they desire to be “Like Everyone Else,” a duet (one of several) where the twins reveal their deepest emotions. When vaudeville producers Buddy Foster (Devin Desantis) and Terry Connor (Matthew Keffer) offer the twins a better life, they jump on the offer with the help of the loving Jake (Evan Tyrone Martin). Good bye, freak show, hello vaudeville. Jake leads the company in a gospel tune, “The Devil You Know” as a warning about venturing out from their comfort zone. The sisters deliver the emotional songs, “Feelings You’ve Got To Hide” most effectively. The company delivers the roaring “Say Goodbye To the Freak Show” powerfully. The act ends with the powerful anthem “Who Will Love Me As I Am.”
We see the sisters’ emergence as vaudeville stars vividly depicted by Devin Desantis leading Daisy, Violet and the Ensemble in the cute vaudevillian dance tune “One Plus One Equals Three.” The sisters grow romantically and into film as their entertainment fame emerges. The decision to have an operation to become separate weighs heavily as marriage and personal differences motivate the twins.
Side Show deals with love, marriage, and the complications inherent with conjoined twins. Can one or both ever find love and marriage? Who will accept them and or let them be who they are? The show deals truthfully with these problems. Since the Hilton sisters (1908-1969) were real people, Side Show had to deal with what actually happened to them. The final anthem “I Will Never Leave You” sung by Daisy and Violet sums up their finally acceptance of who and what they are. This is an uplifting ode to all the “freaks” out there to simply “be,” which should be enough.
Colleen Fee and Britt-Marie Sivertsen were tremendous as the Hilton sisters. Evan Tyrone Martin belted his songs effectively as Jake, while Matthew Keffer and Devin Desantis offered outstanding performances as Terry and Buddy, the Hilton’s agent and instructors. Bill Russell’s smart lyrics upon Henry Krieger’s score were a blend of period music and contemporary pop influences that featured stirring ballads, power anthems, as well as cute vaudevillian tunes.
This emotionally charged show is dedicated to the strength, determination, and sheer will of the Hilton sisters and all those “different” folks who enrich humanity with their spirit. Side Show is one of the major triumphs of 2015. Don’t miss it!
At Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago, IL, www.porchlightmusictheatre.org tickets $39 – $45, Thursdays at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 4 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2pm, running time is 2hours, 30 minutes with intermission, through October 25, 2015