Review by Terry Gaisin
“Hurry, Hurry, Hurry; step right up folks and see some human wonders of the World…!. This emblematic cry of the carnival barkers hopefully would draw patrons to see freaks of nature. During the early part of 20th century; the Hilton sisters – Daisy & Violet; conjoined at the hip were features all over Europe as the ‘Singing Siamese Twins’. A few years ago, composer Henry Krieger collaborated with Bill Russell to create a musical retelling of their lives. Result- SIDE SHOW, the musical.
Hammer Entertainment chose Shari Vandermolen to direct a strong cast of character portrayers but unfortunately; her motivation seems to be more artistic than theatrical. The upshot is a rather heavy-handed and somewhat dragging presentation. The play’s format is songs interspersed with poetic dialogue and back-grounded by piano solos as well as a 6-piece orchestra. Vandermolen has cast five strong major thespians to carry the play. The twins are Stacy Milford (Violet) and Emily Hastings-Speck as sister Daisy. Their co-ordination and chemistry add a sense of credibility and almost a belief that they are really fused together. Milford displays the stronger voice and her utilization of a most expressive face makes her predominant. Sister Daisy is no slouch either. The opening act outlines their history and stage evolution. Post-interval delineates their personal foibles and misadventures.
The two men in their lives, promoter Ian McKechnie who loves Daisy but can’t overcome an instinctive apprehension about intimate relationships… given the situation; and Scottie Sweet who ends up as spouse to Violet; both offer insightful and powerfully identifiable portrayals. Their singing, interaction and their own relationship to each other rings sincere. But, it is Jason Dick as a disfigured circus member who owns this show. His emotional range and depth of characterization makes him both fearsome and yet worthy of, & earning the empathy of his entire audience. He also has the stand-out musical number about ‘the Devil you Know’ that could also be a hit, even out of context.
The costumes, especially those worn by the other freak portrayers show creativity and are anything but subtle. What you see is what they represent. The set is minimal; however, the rear-lit sheets for shadow-effect are somewhat kitschy. The choreography by Alyssa Nedich at times seems a little too challenging for chorus synchronicity. Other than that, the dancing and chorus intervals are delightful and especially in Act II- a welcome respite from the melodrama unfolding among the principals. Costuming, by the director & Beth Sheriff are attractive, interesting and fully descriptive of both time-period and personas.
The original Hilton Siamese twins were talented, attractive, and socially accepting of their rather unique societal situation. Their portrayers also demonstrate these attributes. SIDE SHOW is at the Citadel Theatre on Rebecca Street until February 8th.