BWW Interview: Far from Freaky- SIDE SHOW Twins Erin Davie and Emily Padgett Talk Kennedy Center Show Changes & More!
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts presents SIDE SHOW, which runs in the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater now through July 13, 2014. Side Show features book and lyrics by Bill Russell and music by Henry Krieger, and is directed by Academy Award winner Bill Condon. The Kennedy Center production of Side Show is produced in association with La Jolla Playhouse, where the show ran late last year.
Based on the true story of conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton (played by Erin Davie and Emily Padgett) who became stars during the Depression, Side Show is a moving portrait of two women joined at the hip whose extraordinary bondage brings them fame but denies them love.
The leading ladies took the time to chat with BroadwayWorld about the new changes to the musical, their favorite parts of the show, their sisterly bond, and much more. Check out the full interview below!
The DC production opened just last week! How have things been going since then?
EP: Great! We had a fast and furious preview period. We only had four performances to get the show where it needed to be. Then we opened and it was fantastic. The reviews were so lovely and encouraging. It's been great- the audiences have been so supportive and sweet. It's a dream come true to get to perform at the Kennedy Center.
ED: It's a great place to perform. Everyone has been so great. And now that we've opened we are definitely getting a little bit into our stride here.
This is a reimagined version of the musical and you've gotten to work with some of the creators of the show because of that. What was that experience like for you?
ED: It's been fantastic especially because it's been so collaborative. Bill [Condon], the director, has been so open to everyone's ideas. I honestly feel like he takes everything you say into consideration. You feel really respected and heard and it's a wonderful way to work.
EP: Yeah, and I think that Bill approached the project as a fan of SIDE SHOW. He worked with Henry Krieger on the DREAMGIRLS movie and has been a fan of the show. We're all here because we're such fans of the piece, so we're all coming in the hopes that it gets to reach more people. It had such a short life on Broadway- it really didn't get to reach as many people as it should have. I'm just very thankful and excited to be a part of this great story.
There's been a significant period of time since the San Diego run- how did you handle that?
ED: It was definitely a little bit longer than I probably would have liked. Only because it was a hard amount of time to be able to fit in another show if we wanted to work on something else. I think we were all ready to get at it a little sooner, so we were all chomping at the bit. But time off is ALWAYS a great opportunity to come back with a fresh outlook.
EP: I think that the first day of rehearsal at the Kennedy Center we could all just feel that we were at the next level. To be able to do two out of towns is such a gift. You're able to make mistakes, figure things out, try things... it's really wonderful. It was a long time to have off though- it was so good to come back.
Would you say that your performances have changed since a few months ago?
EP: Definitely for me! We have some new actors in the show- Ryan Silverman has joined the cast as 'Terry Connor'. 'Daisy' and 'Terry' have a romantic connection, so for me things have changed a lot. The tone of the show had also become a bit darker. I think the bond between Erin and I has become stronger too.
Have there been many significant changes to the show since the La Jolla production?
ED: Yes, we looked at what didn't work and what needed work. We actually ran out of time a little bit at La Jolla in the rehearsal process. There were things that we wanted to do but weren't able to. But now we have that opportunity here. We went right into the rehearsal room and he came in with rewrites- and all of the changes are great. Everything makes more sense and flows better.
EP: Yeah, I think that Bill is such a master storyteller. Even in terms of choreography... if it doesn't help the story and further us along then he doesn't want to see it. Everything is about the characters and the story. Even down to the lighting and the costumes- does it help tell the story? I think he's so good at that and so good at focusing on specific moments.
Is this the first Kennedy Center experience for both of you?
EP: It's both of our first times! It's such a beautiful facility and people get dressed up to come see the show!
ED: I love DC.
EP: Yeah, DC has been so amazing. It's so easy to get around and the people at the Kennedy Center have been so helpful in telling us about the city and setting things up for us.
You both have gotten to spend a lot of time together on this project. I'd imagine that's essential in taking on these characters...
EP: Erin and I didn't know each other before working together on this. When you're attached to someone, everything is a compromise. Everyone has their own way of getting to know the material and discover the character. For us, it became very apparent early on that we needed to be collaborative with each other.
ED: We're parents and our baby is the show. We have the same common goal, and we're both on the same page as to how we want to raise this child.
EP: Totally! [Laughs]
ED: That makes it work quickly. We're both and the same page and we're together all the time. We want it to work.
EP: I find myself saying a lot: "What do you think about this?" I wouldn't make a decision about where I think my character is going without telling her. We really are one! Our dressing rooms are right next-door. We share a bathroom. You can't go at it on your own.
Did you do lots of research on the real Hilton girls?
EP: We did! We looked at a lot of old photographs and books. We met with someone named Steven, whose grandfather was one of the twin's dance partners. He had so much information about them. He had old photos of them that were never published. He is so into their story- it's kind of like his second job. He's still collecting things.
Daisy and Violet have very distinct personalities- do you find that you each relate the most to your respective character?
EP: We are very appropriately cast [Laughs]. I think Bill did a good job. He actually said that this show has been the hardest for him to cast and I can see why. I identify so much with 'Daisy' and I have a sister as well. Erin has sisters too, so having that to draw upon has been great.
ED: I'm definitely the more introverted of us.
EP: I would say thoughtful. I think of you as so thoughtful. I always say "What is she thinking about?" With me I just say exactly what I'm thinking!
I think that this show has some of the most spectacular female duets ever written for the theatre. Was it daunting knowing that you'd get to take on these big songs?
EP: It was very exciting at first but then once we started to get into it, it was like "How are we gonna sing these?" It's all we. Like, "How can WE do this together?" The most important thing for us is blend. There are certain parts when we just want to sound like one voice.
ED: I have to say honestly, I had some trepidation about taking it on, only because the original performances are so iconic. They are so specific. They are known for belting the hell out of those songs. We don't do it quite like they do it. We know that there will be people who say "Oh, well they're not as good as the originals," but the way that we are approaching it I think is just as important. We've learned to let that go and enjoy it.
EP: I didn't see the original production but I definitely knew all of the music from the soundtrack. I think that what Alice [Ripley] and Emily [Skinner] were able to do with their voices ... it's just untouchable. What they did together was so unbelievable that I don't think we could go into this project trying to do it like they did. We're not them. We are very different. We do it how we do it.
ED: It's the only way we can do it.
EP: We're so thankful for them, for what they were able to accomplish. It gave the show this cult following, even after it closed. It has still lived on and we are so thankful for that. It brought people to come see SIDE SHOW in a new way.
Is there a part of the show that you look forward to every night?
EP: I really love the opening number, "Come Look at the Freaks". I think that maybe it's because we aren't in it until the very end. We get to hear it though. It's that opening, mysterious melody that's so amazing. I also love the vaudeville numbers. I think they are really fun to do. It changes for me though.
ED: I love the beginning of "Who Will Love Me As I Am?" It's such an empty, raw moment. I think the beginning of that song is so beautiful.
What has been the best part of this experience for you?
ED: I love that the show has been so challenging for me- physically, emotionally... it's allowed me to grow a lot as a performer. There are so many scenes in this show that I personally identify with and am touched by. I feel like every night there is something else that I chime in with because of what's going on in my life. It's become very personal to me and that's what I love about it. It's given me the opportunity to grow.
EP: Every single person in this makes the show. It's not about the twins and the powerhouse numbers. It's about ALL of the freaks and all of the characters that the girls meet and come across in their journey. I love the community of our cast. Everyone is here to tell the story and make the best show we can. So for me, just being able to do this with our cast and creative team has been the best.
The cast also features: Matthew Hydzik as Buddy Foster ,Robert Joy as Sir, Ryan Silverman as Terry Connor, and David St. Louis as Jake. Additional casting includes Brandon Bieber, Charity Dawson, Lauren Elder, Derek Hanson, Javier Ignacio, Jordanna James, Guy Lockard, Kelvin Moon Loh, Barrett Martin, Con O'Shea Creal, Matthew Patrick Davis, Don Richard, Blair Ross, Hannah Shankman, Jason Walker, and Delaney Westfall.
The Kennedy Center production of Side Show features scenic design by David Rockwell, costume design by Paul Tazewell, lighting design by Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, and sound design by Kai Harada. The musical features choreography by Anthony van Laast. For tickets, visit: http://www.kennedy-center.org
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus