Reviewer: Holly Spanner
When Side Show opened in 1997 on Broadway, it was billed as being commercially disastrous. It did however generate a substantial a cult following and has since been recently revived at the St James Theatre, only to close after less than two months in early 2015. The production explores the incredible and touching true story of conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton as they rise up in the world of performance, from circus attraction to vaudeville success. The original production was nominated for four Tony Awards including Best Musical and Best Original Score as well as a Drama Desk Award.
Side Show Added Attractions is an absolute essential for fans of the show as it includes never before heard material including cut songs, extended versions, rôle reversals and acoustic versions of music from the original. It is a musical with tremendous heart, and encourages the listener to dig up deep emotions from within the soul.
Opening the album is ‘Stuck with You’ which was added for the 2014 revival, here sung as a standalone version (on stage it gets interrupted) by the two couples Matthew Hydzik, Barrett Martin, Erin Davie and Emily Padgett. Bouncy and catchy, it is slightly tongue in cheek, and was actually the first song Bill Russell and Henry Krieger wrote together.
Harry Houdini was not a character in the original production, but since the man himself was a good friend of the sisters, it was decided that he should feature in the revival. Javier Ignacio sings ‘All in the Mind’ with only a piano for accompaniment, beautiful and evocative as he imparts his wisdom on the twins as to how they can tune out all the distractions and just be alone, free in their minds.
The mashup of the girls vaudeville debut ‘Ready to Play’ and ‘We Share Everything’ features songs from the two different Broadway productions of the musical. Sung in the Vaudeville style they were both written for the same point in the show, but only one could be used. Add to that the gender swap for ‘We Share Everything’ and it feels almost gluttonous to have them both, but if you can’t do this in a concert, when can you?
Surprisingly ‘Sideshow’ was cut from the show; it was written but never used. The bright voices of Davie and Padgett are expressive and emotive as they sing out their cri-de-c œur. The pitying nature of the song is perhaps an indicator as to why it was cut, but nevertheless it is a treat to hear performed with composer Henry Krieger at the piano.
I’m the hanger on, I’m the sideshow,
While you are the main event
I’ll be standing by in the sideshow,
While you play the centre tent
The twin’s anthem ‘I Will Never Leave You’ is an emotional highlight to the album. Sung as a harmonious acoustic version to round off the album, even out of context is sensitive and moving with just a hint of yearning for being able to sing solo.
It is interesting to see how this production has evolved, and it is clear the producers and cast have had a lot of fun with this recording. Side ShowAdded Attractions is artistic, heartfelt and a welcome addition to any musical theatre catalogue.
Side Show Added Attractions is available from Broadway Records.