By Skip Sheffield
The freaks have overtaken
and we mean
that in the best possible way. West Boca Raton
Slow Burn Theatre’s production of “Side Show” celebrates oddities, aberrations and mutations in music and song. The musical, by Bill Russell and Henry Krieger ran for just 91 performances on Broadway. It is onstage only through Sunday, Feb. 10 in the Performing Arts Auditorium, so catch it while you can.
The story centers on Daisy (Kaela Antolino) and Violet (Courtney Poston), characters based by the real life conjoined English-born Hilton "Siamese" twins. The girls were inextricably joined at the hip, but in the show they are able to separate temporarily for dramatic purposes.
“Side Show” is a miraculous example of getting maximum results from minimum resources. The cast is large (17) yet lavishly costumed by Rick Pena, who also plays Buddy, a struggling musician who discovers the twins in a carnival sideshow and drags his friend Terry Connor (co-director Matthew Korinko), an Orpheum Circuit vaudeville scout, to see the act.
Connor instantly sees the commercial potential in the untrained twins. Buddy and Terry convince Daisy and Violet to leave the carnival to achieve their star potential.
The greedy carnival boss (Conor Walton) fights and threatens them. Their best friend Jake (Jerel Brown) asks them to stay for reasons of his own, but he agrees to let them go when they say he can come with them.
Daisy and Violet, like the twins on which they are based, are two separate and distinct personalities forced to share the same corporate body. Daisy is more ambitious and star-struck. Violet yearns for love, romance and a conventional marriage. This inevitably leads to conflict, as it did for the real-life Hilton sisters. Dreams are expressed in “Like Everybody Else” and “Feelings You’ve Got to Hide;” reality in “The Devil You Know, “Who Will Love Me As I Am?” and “I Will Never Leave You.”
“Side Show” is also about exploitation.
America is in
the depths of the Depression and people are desperate to do anything for a
buck. In the case of the Hilton sisters that includes staging a very public
wedding ceremony. The Kardashian clan is nothing new.
As in real life, the ending of the Hilton Sisters’ story is bittersweet. This show thankfully does not follow it all the way to its sad conclusion. Instead it is uplifting in an odd way, celebrating strong souls who triumph over handicaps.
The singing in this show is simply beautiful with gorgeous harmonies by the entire ensemble, backed by an unseen but very responsive onstage band. Both Kaela Antolino and Courtney Poston are strong singers. Poston is particularly strong in her projection, but she throttles back to felt perfectly for her “twin” duets.
Choreographer-director Patrick Fitzwater and his plucky troupe are truly miracle workers. The theater community lost a lot over the past year, but the future burns bright for “Slow Burn.”
Tickets are $30-$35. Call 866-811-4111 or go to www.slowburntheatre.org.