Arts and Culture / News

DU’s winter musical takes a darker turn

Though it only lasted for 91 performances on Broadway, the 1997 musical Side Show — based on the real lives of conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton — scored five Tony nominations (including the first and only joint nomination for best actress in a musical) and has gained a cult following of young Broadway fans who can identify with the show’s theme of feeling like a misfit and trying to fit in.

“One thing I emphasize to the cast is about the opening song, ‘Come Look at the Freaks,’ says Nick Sugar, who is directing the DU production of the musical that opens Feb. 24. “It’s such a powerful statement, because you see they are just people like us at the very beginning. You see them as a Greek chorus and they’re just people, then they transform into these [circus] creatures. The real message is that no one is perfect, we all have insecurities and we have to embrace who we are and love our imperfections.”

Featuring a cast of 21 undergrads from DU’s vocal performance and theater departments, plus a seven-piece ensemble from the Lamont School of Music, Side Show is a bit of a departure from last year’s winter musical, Stephen Sondheim’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

Forum was this really lighthearted farce where you’re just laughing a mile a minute,” says Sugar, who also directed the previous show. “There are some very funny moments in [Side Show], but it is heartbreaking. The journey is just really gorgeous.”

Written by Bill Russell (book and lyrics) and Henry Krieger (music), the musical follows the life of Daisy and Violet, who were born to a single barmaid in Brighton, England, in 1908. After appearing in circus sideshows and in vaudeville, the twins made the move to film, appearing in Tod Browning’s 1932 cult-horror classic Freaks and in 1951’s Chained for Life, an exploitation film based on their lives. The musical also documents the twins’ efforts to fall in love and get married.

“My character is Daisy Hilton and my twin is Violet Hilton, and my dream is to perform in vaudeville and her dream is to fall in love, and we both end up getting rejected in the end,” says freshman vocal performance major Katie Turley, who is paired with fellow freshman Cecilie Nygaard in the show. “It’s a really sad ending — the ending song is ‘I Will Never Leave You,’ and we both sing that to each other.”

Turley says she wasn’t familiar with Side Show before being cast in it, but she’s finding inspiration in the musical’s message.

“Even though we’re Siamese twins and people think of us as freaks, we find out that we’re beautiful in our own way, and we end up being proud at the end of who we are. The song that ends the first act is called ‘Who Will Love Me As I Am?’ and that sums up a lot of it. We’re just trying to figure out who will love us, and it ends up that these guys reject us and we’re both there for each other at the end and we come to terms with ourselves and who we are.”

Performances of Side Show are at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24, 25 and 26 and March 4 and 5, and 2 p.m. March 5 and 6, in the Elizabeth Ericksen Byron Flexible Theatre in the Newman Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $15–$25; call 303-871-7720.


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