That Side Show will close its run at the St. James Theater on Broadway is sad news. After an ebullient first preview in late October, the revival had a meet & greet at Sardi's. Many of the show's producers had not yet met the musical's stars, Erin Davie and Emily Padgett as the Hilton sisters, conjoined twins, whose pioneering showbiz story is retold, Matthew Hydzik and Ryan Silverman as the men/promoters in their lives, and David St. Louis as their loving caretaker. They also had not yet met director Bill Condon, who took a controversial piece about unusual acts (eh, freaks) in the age of burlesque and vaudeville, revised it from Bill Russell's original book, amplifying the twins' backstory, and made it soar. Henry Krieger's music, especially "I Will Never Leave You" was always great. Rising to its Dreamgirls moment, this show was making the producers very happy.
Be careful not to call them "Siamese." The Hilton sisters, Daisy and Violet were joined at the pelvis and were among the very few conjoined twins to survive birth. As it was, when the option to separate occurred, they demurred knowing that one or both could die. As Side Show recreates their world, their lives are difficult; "freaks," they are also sweet and pretty young blonds, finding love difficult. In a lively production number/ dream sequence, they imagine life apart.
Sardi's was packed that night. Many well-wishers took Isaiah Johnson for David St. Louis, the actor for whom he understudies. Johnson took it in stride. He and Delaney Westfall who understudies for each of the twins were happy to be part of the production, said to be timely because Netflix' American Horror Story was making freak shows a trend. Cinderella star Laura Osnes could not wait to meet Davie and Padgett. Tommy Tune held court at a window table, awaiting his not yet scheduled return to the Café Carlyle.
Bill Condon, aware of the controversy surrounding Side Show in its original production -- is it P.C. to focus on "freaks"-- said he is hoping for the day when reviews won't open with a comparison to its ill-fated first production. And now this production is meeting an ill fate all its own.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.