The Players Theatre production of “Side Show,” based on a true story — with book and lyrics by Bill Russell and music by Henry Krieger — gives the audience a fascinating and intimate look into the lives of famous conjoined twins, Daisy and Violet Hilton. Its 1997 Broadway debut resulted in four Tony award nominations, and the play has also enjoyed a number of successful regional productions.
It’s an operetta-style musical, and the opening song, "Come Look at the Freaks," introduces a terrific cast as the ringmaster (David Walker) of a side show reveals the exhibits — the Bearded Lady (Kelly Ann Mueller Turner), a geek (Joseph Grosso), the Cannibal King (Terry Rhodes), Harem Girls (Mary Glantz, Sarah Mayper and Lauren Ward), a Sheik (Jean-Paul Monde), a Fakir (Craig Engle), the Lobster Boy (Alex Mahadevan), the Tatooed Lady (Casey Kelly), the Snake Lady (Sharon Barley), a Fortune Teller (Debbi White) and ending with the star attraction, the “Siamese Twins,” who are in fact undeniably Caucasian and beautifully played by Danae DeShazer, as Violet, and Alana Opie, as Daisy.
Jason Kimble plays Buddy Foster, an aspiring musician who brings talent scout Terry Connor (Tim Fitzgerald) to see the twins, which results in a collaboration that leads to a life of fame on the Vaudeville circuit for all of them.
The musical numbers are entertaining, and the action is well delivered with the aid of Director Michael Newton-Brown. I especially enjoyed the song "The Devil You Know," which highlights talented Terry Rhodes as Jake, and a number of lovely duets in which the many gifts of DeShazer and Opie shine most brightly. Most importantly, the story provides us with empathetic insight into the lives of people who are born “different” from the majority of their fellow humans. "Side Show" caused me to reflect on how far we as a society have evolved.