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In the 1930s, conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton were incredibly popular stars of the circus sideshow and vaudeville circuit. Purchased by their mother’s boss because of their “potential,” and subsequently trained in singing and dancing, they became famous “because they were freaks.” This is according to Brian Boruta, director of Emerson Umbrella’s production of Side Show – the Broadway musical version of these girls’ lives.
Side Show follows the girls’ rise to fame in America “woven in with a sort of subplot of love and romance,” says Boruta. The show explores the girls’ discovery and how they cope with their fame, along with an additional romantic foray with their “handlers” Buddy and Terry. It is a search for self-acceptance, true love, and the understanding of sisterly love. Side Show originally opened on Broadway in 1997 and ran for 91 performances; Baruto laments that it has not been done very often since then. A rare, unusual choice, Baruto explains that Umbrella’s decision to pick this particular show stemmed from a combination between a desire for “something really different” and having “some really great female talent on our hands.” He also is aware of the musical itself being revamped in Los Angeles currently, “so this version of the show might never be seen again,” he says.
To give listeners a taste of what Emerson Umbrella is working with, the first song they chose to perform was “Tunnel of Love.” The number gave the lead females Jess Andra and Sarah Leary a chance to explore their onstage chemistry with their male counterparts Tim McShea and David Lucey. The second song, “Private Conversation” features Tim McShea as Terry, imagining what it would be like to get one of the Siamese twins without the other. The song is full of lust and longing, but also full of the pain of wanting something he cannot fully have.
To conclude the in-studio session, which included all but six of the cast members, they presented “Who Will Love Me As I Am,” the last song from the first Act. This song examines love from the girls’ end – they question whether they will ever find true romance after Terry and Buddy have denied to the outside world any attraction to them. It’s a number that commands attention, and even without an orchestral backup the cast sounded full and grand. For their stage performances however, the cast will have a 14-piece orchestral back up that everyone is more than excited about. In fact, after recording in the studio they were on the way to meet the whole orchestra, so energy was running extremely high. The cast has just a few more days to prepare before premiering Side Show and they couldn’t be more palpably excited to take on this piece of theater.
The show runs from October 25 through November 10 at the Emerson Umbrella Center for Arts in Concord and tickets run around $30. This may be your only chance to see this rare show!