Side Show at The Chameleon Theatre Circle
Let's start by saying, if a theater company around you is ever producing Side Show you should certainly see it. I say this because it doesn't seem to get produced often. No this is not a Fringe musical rendition of American Horror Story: Freak Show. It is a beautiful story about courage, love, sisterhood and what it feels like to be an outcast. The musical is based on a true story about conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton and their journey from freak show performers to vaudeville stars in the 1930s.
Side Show originally opened on Broadway in October 1997 starring Emily Skinner (Daisy) and Alice Ripley (Violet). Sadly only after 91 performances, it closed. A fun fact about their performance is that it is the first and only time that two actresses were co-nominated for Best Actress in a Musical as a team, however, they lost to Natasha Richardson that year in Cabaret. A revised version of the musical ran in 2014 which "incorporates new songs as well as additional biographical details of the Hilton twins' life and historical figures of the era." This is the version that Chameleon produced.
Walking into the space, I was intrigued yet excited almost immediately because it was a musical in a black box theater. Now what I love about a black box theater is how intimate the space can be. During the first song "Come Look at the Freaks," the show really felt like being in a carnival because the actors broke the fourth wall and looked right at you as they performed. That being said, it's a shame that some of the more intimate scenes and songs were staged in a way that pretty much had them performing only to the center audience members which left the ones on the sides completely in the dark and unable to see what was happening.
A lot of the performers all stood out in their own ways throughout the show but the ones who I really would like to highlight are the four main actors. Starting with the two supporting male lead characters, Terry (played by Jeremy Johnson) and Buddy (played by Logan Bitz Daum). Both had wonderful singing voices, despite some issues from Terry's microphone, he continued to perform without being phased. Logan certainly stands out from the entire cast as the best dancer with energy and that specific kind of pizzazz that felt like a throwback to vaudeville performances. He has a particularly fun little song titled "One Plus One Equals Three" with some of the other ensemble members and the Hilton twins. It was campy, cute and certainly was one of my favorites that night.
When it came to the Hilton twins...can you say perfect casting? Daisy (played by Julia Ennen) and Violet (played by Anna Larranaga) I feel is what keeps companies from producing this musical. If you don't have these roles perfect, the show will fail but these two actresses compliment each other so well I would go back and see it again just to see them perform "Ready to Play," "Who Will Love Me as I Am," and one of the best female duets ever, "I Will Never Leave You." As you have to be with these roles, Julia and Anna were in perfect sync through the entire show almost as if they really were connected at the hip.
They do a phenomenal job of letting each other have their individual moments without stealing the spotlight from each other. When the scene is clearly about Violet, Julia remains in character but still gives all attention to Anna and vice versa. Their voices individually are delicate and tender when needed and together they are powerful and full of emotion especially in the productions Act II finale "I Will Never Leave You." Not only singing, but they are both outstanding actresses.
This is a wonderfully told story. I thoroughly enjoyed the performances and this was my first time seeing a Chameleon Theatre Circle production as well, and I'm excited to go back.
Side Show leaves Burnsville Sunday, April 23rd so there are plenty of chances to still see this production. More information on ticket information and performance dates can be found here.