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Side Show

a Musical
by Henry Krieger and Bill Russell

COMPANY : Onstage Atlanta, Inc. [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Onstage Atlanta, Inc. (Decatur) [WEBSITE]
ID# 3791

SHOWING : September 17, 2010 - October 16, 2010



Daisy and Violet Hilton are conjoined twins who change from a common freakshow act to famous stage performers in the 1930's. But Daisy and Violet don't agree with what they need next: fame or love? It's a wild theatrical ride filled with show stopping numbers and bearded ladies... you can't ask for more.

Director Barbara Cole Uterhardt
Choreographer Anna Galt
Music Director S. Craig McConnell
Lighting Designer Tom Gillespie
Costume Designer Jane Kroessig
Props Cathe Hall Payne
Props Angie Short
Set Builder Darrell Wofford
Musician L. Gerard Reid
Violet Kimberly Bates
Terry Charlie Bradshaw
The Boss Matthew Carter
Harem Girl Takara Clark
Fortune Teller Jenna Edmonds
Harem Girl Colleen Gaenssley
Roustabout Scotty Gannon
Sheik Collin Hughey
Bearded Lady Kristie Krabe
Buddy Bryan Lee
Daisy Rachel Miller
Geek Charlie Miller
Snake Girl Mandy Mitchell
Roustabout Renee Najour Payne
6th Exhibit Bryant Scott
Roustabout Lumumba Seegars
Cast melanie traas
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Life Challenge
by Mama Alma
Thursday, October 14, 2010
I've never liked the circus. I took my kids the requisite number of times, but it didn't change my opinion of the whole mishmash as being vaguely unsettling and creepy. Only when I saw Cirque du Soleil did I start to think there might be something beyond the sawdust. OnStage Atlanta, however, is not Cirque du Soleil, so I went to see Side Show with some degree of trepidation. The opening song, "Come Look at the Freaks" fed into my worst fears. However, much as with my experience with Cirque, I was intrigued by the pathos, beauty and compassion in the story of the Hilton Sisters, conjoined twins whose careers spanned the circus, vaudeville and movies.

Rachel Miller (Daisy) and Kimberly Bates (Violet) do a fantastic job of creating the illusion that they are literally bound at the hip. So seamless was their performance, I had assumed they were wearing a joined costume. But when the girls sang of their very different individual aspirations, they physically separated, and it was a telling moment for me. Suddenly a "thing" that was an oddity became two real people and I was uncomfortably aware of just how deep my own prejudice ran, because I was much more comfortable with them apart than I was when they were joined.

That's a big theme of Side Show, the marginalization of those who don't fit into society's definition of "normal." Daisy and Violet are regarded as freaks, but as they explain over and over and over (as the reporters at different stages of the girls' lives ask the same inane questions) they have the same desires and dreams as anyone else: to fall in love, get married, maybe have a family (in Violet's case) or be rich and famous (Daisy). The only way they are different from anyone else is that each always has to consult the other before taking even the smallest step. Is the mother of a newborn, then, a freak? Are newlyweds any less odd than Daisy and Violet?

As Daisy and Violet become more real, more normal to us, Side Show switches our perceptions. Violet is disappointed in love, jilted by her fiancÚ because he doesn't think he can deal with her special circumstances, but waiting in the wings with an open heart and his own offer of love is her friend Jake who has followed the twins and taken care of them through their entry into the world outside the circus side show. Jake is achingly, beautifully, portrayed by Apollo Levine, a fantastic singer who had me in tears with his rendition of "You Should Be Loved." Because of her own inability to accept Jake's "special circumstances," Violet rejects Jake's offer of true love. Ultimately the sisters are left only with each other, a fate they embrace in the stirring "I Will Never Leave You."

The singing was superb (especially, as noted, by Mr. Levine). Charlie Bradshaw, as Terry, the twins' manager, was rock solid. A lot of Side Show is sung dialogue, a style I personally find superfluous. Mr. Bradshaw's clear concise delivery, however, would render the telephone book a work of art. He is too often wasted in a minor part that has one good solo, and it was a joy to watch him in a robust role, and listen to that marvelous voice roll over the audience. The only exception was Matt Carter as The Boss. Perhaps it was a deliberate choice, but I wish Ms. Uterhardt had let him speak his lines.

Anthony Owen's set design is fantastic, with glimpses of bodies ensnared and trapped in the architecture, struggling for freedom. Remembering Owen's driving choreography in Urinetown, I wish he'd been persuaded to sprinkle a little of that genius into the dancing here (he did not choreograph), but there were some numbers, especially the one I'll always refer to as the Egyptian number (Colin Hughey rocks), that were immensely satisfying.

So, other than my usual criticism (not enough Jenna Edmonds), this was very much a worthwhile outing, one I thought about long after I left, and one whose songs have become embedded in my mind. OnStage continues its pursuit of challenging, sometimes offbeat, material and turns in another solid production.
A Conjunction of Talents
by playgoer
Sunday, October 10, 2010
Onstage Atlanta's production of "Side Show" continues its tradition of dark musicals, following "Urinetown" a couple of years back and "The Wild Party" last year. It can't match the impact of "Urinetown" (nothing could), and it certainly isn't as dark as "The Wild Party," but it makes a worthy addition to the sequence.

The set is one of the finest parts of the production. Anthony Owen has designed two sets of proscenium arches that are subtly asymmetrical. They are swathed in fabric at the start, as conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton work in a side show of freaks. When the twins break into vaudeville, the fabric comes down and we see the statued columns. The statues on stage right (Daisy's side) each have three-dimensional faces. The faces on the statues on stage left (Violet's side) are sketched or partially hidden. This neatly reflects the personalities and goals of the two women -- Daisy craving attention and fame; Violet seeking a quiet, domestic life outside the spotlight.

Rolling stage pieces add to the variety of settings. There's a circular platform, revolving stairs, and even a swan boat for the tunnel of love sequence. A black curtain in the inner proscenium hides the elevated bandstand for much of the show, but opens to reveal the deepest scenes. Members of the cast carry out the scene changes with a minimum of interruption. Lighting, designed by Tom Gillespie, highlights the action without being intrusive.

The choreography, by Anna Galt, is active and inventive. Musical direction, by S. Craig McConnell, blends voices and band well. Both, however, are let down a little by the cast. Ms. Galt did a better job of making the dance moves fit the capabilities of the cast, in which only the scintillating Colleen Shannon Gaenssley seemed to move with consistent grace and charm. Some of the singing was very good, but the score is filled with recitative-like sections with little tune, and few in the ensemble could manage its complexities without an occasional sour note.

The acting and singing standouts are Kimberly Bates as Violet and Rachel Miller as Daisy. They look enough alike for wigs (by George Devours) and costumes (by Jane B. Kroessig) to give the impression that they are twins. Their movements, with linked hands, do a wonderful job of reinforcing that impression. They work splendidly together, while each delineates a distinct character.

The most glorious voice in the cast belongs to Charlie Bradshaw, as impressario Terry, but his facial expressions underplay every moment in the show and the many references to him being handsome don't ring true. Jenna Edmonds, in the tiny role of a fortune teller, also displays a wonderful, powerful voice, but her accent is embarassingly weak. Bryan Lee, playing one of Violet's beaux (Buddy), has a tiny voice in comparison to the rest of the cast, and doesn't quite have the stage presence to carry off his major role. Apollo Levine, as another beau (Jake), has strong stage presence and a strong voice, but not quite the skills to carry off his major song without hoarseness.

Director Barbara Cole Uterhardt has created a successful production, but not a stellarly stunning one. "Side Show" has a slight, bittersweet storyline that needs perfect casting. Here, the casting rarely exceeds the adequate. The show looks good, with set, costumes, lighting, and choreography all providing strong support that could have provided the backbone of an excellent production. That "Side Show" as a whole doesn't achieve the same excellence is due partly to casting and partly to the show itself, which relies on sung near-dialogue when clearly spoken text would have been more successful at moving the show along. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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