Monday, November 24, 2014

Broadway Theater Review: Side Show

David St. Louis (center), Emily Padgett and Erin Davie. Photo:  Joan Marcus
Side Show Asks Whether a Couple of ‘Freaks’ Can Find a Normal Life
By Lauren Yarger
Inspired by the true-life story of conjoined twins who became the highest-paid performers on the Vaudeville circuit, Broadway’s revival of Side Show offers some solid voices singing a pleasing Henry Krieger score, but let’s face it. Life as sisters joined at the hip – literally – has its drawbacks and, well, is still kind of a bummer despite songs and material added to broaden the scope of this revival.

Erin Davie and Emily Padgett are the Hilton twins, Violet  and Daisy. Abused by their guardian, whom they call Sir (Robert Joy), they are forced to work in the freak show he runs and to strip and reveal their connection to anyone willing to pay a few extra bucks. Sir draws the line at anyone touching the girls, however, and employs Jake (David St. Louis in a break-out role) to protect them. He does more than that. He falls in love with Violet.

Violent loves Jake, but as a friend. Despite wanting a home and family, and a life “Like Everyone Else,” she doesn’t think the society who drools over her and her "Freak" friends would be tolerant of her relationship with an African-American any way. Meanwhile, Daisy, the opposite of her sister in personality, is flirty and dreams of adventure and fame in Hollywood.

Along comes a man who might be able to make that happen. Terry Connor (Ryan Silverman) catches the girls’ act and convinces friend Buddy Foster (Matthew Hydzik), a scout for the Orpheum Circuit, that they have potential. He creates an act for them with song-and-dance man Buddy (Anthony Van Laast choreographs) and helps them win their freedom from Sir. 

Meanwhile, he orchestrates publicity frenzy over Buddy’s marriage to Violet, all while avoiding his own feelings for Daisy. He might be willing to explore them, he tells her, if the twins would agree to undergo risky surgery to separate them.

The story plays out against a set designed by David Rockwell and lighted by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer to bring out the dark mood and humor: “I’m well connected, a character claims…” 

Assorted “Freaks” are frighteningly costumed by Paul Tazewell with Hair and Wig Design by Charles LaPointe, Makeup Design by Cookie Jordan and Special Makeup Effects by Dave Elsy and Lou Elsy. Illusions are by Paul Kieve, Tazewell also has a chance to create some stunning evening dresses for the twins.

The cast of Side Show's characters includes a Three-Legged Man (Brandon Bieber), a Dog Boy (Javier Ignacio), a Half Man Half Woman (Kelvin Moon Loh), a Reptile Man (Don Richard) and a Bearded Lady (Blair Ross) among many others. 

Violet and Daisy's friend Houdini (Ignacio) teaches the girls how to disappear into themselves, but what they really want is to find someone “Who Will Love Me As I Am.” Davie and Padgett nail that showstopper ending to Act One, with its moving lyrics by Bill Russell. The audience included obvious fans of the show who were waiting for that number and others like “I Will Never Leave You.”

Standing out is dreamy-voiced St. Louis, who brings down the house with “The Devil You Know” and makes us feel Jake’s pain. All of the vocals are good here, actually, so maybe these leads will find their way to stardom the way original stars Emily Skinner, Alice Ripley and Norm Lewis did following the original Broadway production.

Reimagining the show with some new material and bringing in film Director Bill Condon (“Chicago,” “Dreamgirls,” “Twilight: Breaking Dawn Parts 1 and 2”) for his stage debut doesn’t change the underlying sad tone to this show, however.

View Side Show at the St. James Theatre, 246 West 44th St., NYC. Performances are Wednesday, Friday and Saturday at 8 pm; Wednesday and Saturday at 2 pm; Sunday at 3 pm. Tickets: $49 - $155. A limited number of $30 student rush tickets for student’s under 30 years old are available at the Box Office for purchase on day of performance.

Christians might also like to know:
-- God's name taken in vain
-- Sexual actions

1 comment:

Unknown said...

My ability to "suspend disbelief " can only take me so far. This is a silly premise for a musical. Side Show will never make my "short list." I can buy singing, dancing gang members, but not conjoined twins with different lovers.
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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice preseint and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (event manager for the annual awards ceremony), The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and the Drama League. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She also is a member of the Episcopal Actors' Guild, the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts and The O'Neill Theatre Center..

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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