Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Side Show"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Larry Stark


"Side Show"

Book & Lyrics by Bill Russell
Music by Henry Krieger
Directed by Neil Donohoe
Musical Director/Conductor Robert Ingart
Choreography by Michelle Chasse

Scenic Design by Jill C. Hendrickson
Lighting Design by John Malinowski
Costume Design by David Costa-Cabral
Sound Design by Richard Malcolm
Stage Manager Christy Orabuena

Daisy Hilton................Kathryn Percival
Violet Hilton...........................Lauren Kling
Terry Connor.....................Jason R. Hutson
Buddy Foster..........................Chad Kimball
Jake...............................Aaron Nakia Stone
The Boss.............................Bryan Connolly
Fortune Teller....................Johmaalya Hicks
Geek..................................Darren Dunstan
Sheik.......................................Billy Mason
Dolly Dimples...............................Jen Mize
Bearded Lady............Michael Michel Moon
Reptile Man.....................Matt Bauer
Snake Lady...................Conchita Belisle
6th Exhibit..................Stephanie Lippman
Fakir............................Kevin Ramsey
He/She............................Benjie Randall
Todd Browning...................Rob Lyons
Pinheads
James Ellis, Jaimie Kelton
The Vale Sisters
Robyn Stephanie Clark, Suzanne Fiore, Emily Rozek
Roustabouts
Douglas Horner, Kenneth Nelson, Dominic Nolfi, Barrett Hall
Harem
Katie Adams, Kolina Janneck, Elizabeth Rathi, Emily Rozek
Ensemble
Miki Arima, Michael Hammerstrom, Demond Nason, Alexis E. Velez


As the Boston Conservatory production of “Side Show” opens, the 34-member cast comes onstage, one by one, looking for places in a set of bleachers from which they coldly regard the audience as they launch into the first song: “Come Look at The Freaks”. Ordinarily dressed, they enumerate the list of side-show attractions individuals assume the characteristics of the reptile man, the bearded lady, the wild man of Borneo, and ultimately Daisy and Violet Hilton, the Siamese twins. Everyone immediately reappears costumed in the characters of those freaks, elaborating the story of their humanity, and at the final curtain merge once again into ordinary people. We are all freaks, says the play, no matter on what side of the footlights we happen to be sitting.

The Hilton sisters, who were joined at the hip, has every reason to compromise and cooperate, just to get along in life. But “Side Show” based on their life, is built of a whole string of no-compromise arguments, not only between the sisters, but between their friends, all centered around the twins and their conflicting hopes for public fame and private peace. Their fellow “attractions” argue over whether the twins should leave the family of freaks for a career on the vaudeville stage, arguing whether “The Devil You Know” is better than the one you don’t. The twins’ new manager argues with their voice coach about whether their relationship should be business or romance. The twins argue whether it is better to be stared at as famous performers or ignored as just a wife and mother. They argue whether to show feelings or keep emotions to yourself. In fact, the pair and the whole cast argue continually over how difficult it is for people, who cannot live apart, can still manage to get along.

The student cast uses the big professional Emerson Majestic stage as though they were born to it. Designer Jill C. Hendrickson splits and moves the original set of bleachers around in a ballet all their own, fluidly moving the action from place to time, while David Costa-Cabral whips the cast through half a dozen costume-changes apiece. There are production-number dances by Michelle Chasse with intricate wit that are solidly danced, and excellent singing and playing under Conductor Robert Ingari’s Musical Direction. And Director Neil Donohoe has made certain that, as each character takes a moment center-stage, they could be the professionals they hope to become.

Kathryn Percival as the outgoing Daisy and Lauren Kling as shy Violet grow from repressed freaks to first hesitant then accomplished singers and dancers, always hip-to-hip, always in unified in conflict. They are as different as Jason R. Hutson, who cannot love a conjoined-twin as he might a single woman, and Chad Kilmer, who marries because he thinks he loves, or Aaron Nakia Stone, who finds himself too close a friend to have his love accepted --- all of them engaged in a weirdly kaleidoscopic five-sided love-triangle.

This is a solidly intriguing, thoughtful, exciting production of Bill Russell and Henry Krieger’s powerful musical. All it’s subtle details and rolling re-examinations of ideas are fully expressed.

Love,
===Anon.


"Side Show" (till 28 February)
BOSTON CONSERVATORY
Emerson Majestic Theatre, 219 Tremont Street, BOSTON
1(617)824-8000

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