BWW Reviews: University of Central Oklahoma Presents Oklahoma Premiere of SIDE SHOW
When I hear the words side show, I think of a carnival or a circus and all the freaky, crazy attractions you'd see, such as the "bearded lady" or "strongest man" or "the girl with two heads." As the opening song of Side Show quickly gets to the point, "come look at the freaks." So, what are you doing this weekend? Well, change your plans and come to the Oklahoma Premier of Side Show and see all these dazzling freaks. This musical is written by Bill Russell and Henry Krieger and is based on the lives of Siamese twins Daisy and Violet Hilton.
"Can a freak find love?" is the central question in this musical. The show boldly notes if we were all honest and at our most vulnerable, we are all freaks at some level. Side Show asks a question that so many of us grapple with as we search for love and significance in a world where everyone seems to be watching and making judgments. The show is relevant as it is powerful and it asks the question we all want to know the answer to, "Who will love me as I am?"
Greg White, the director of Musical Theatre at UCO as well as producer for its acclaimed series, "Broadway Tonight" is also the masterful director of the show. Casting is 80 percent of the success of a show and his casting hits every mark. His understanding of the truths and questions within this show is executed brilliantly through all his staging. The music, directed and conducted by Dr. Sandra Thompson, is exquisite. The orchestra never overpowers the actors but instead creates the emotional undercurrent throughout this production. The vocals of the leads, and ensemble were even and nearly flawless.
Choreography by Shannon Hurleigh was superb and executed well by the cast. A highlight of the evening was the Egyptian themed vaudevillian number, "We Share Everything". The set was simple, yet effective (created by Christopher Domanski). The costumes by Cate Wieck were stunning and rival any you'd see in any professional theatre venue. Lighting design by Angela Hawthorne created environments and places that allowed my imagination to go to the location within the story.
As stated earlier casting is the main obstacle and director white leaped over this hurdle. The show is beautifully cast. The men who love and take advantage of the Hilton sisters, both in equal measure, are presented with charm and class by Michael Stewart and Nicholas Hunter. These two amazing powerhouse vocalists capture these men with honesty, showing they are every bit as lonely as the twins they cannot allow themselves to truly love. William Hill, who captivates the audience as Jake, is the only true friend the girls ever experience. He sings from his soul and delivers nothing less than his heart and soul. The boss, played by Max Perkel, is dark and angry and delivers a performance full of bitterness.
The ensemble stays even and steady and plays multiple roles throughout this production. You will marvel at the speed of the many costume changes and how they go from carnival freak to reporter or bystander in record speed and with complete believability. This ensemble works incredibly hard to execute the many scene changes, choreography, and multiple small characters through out this show. Upon speaking with Director White, I learned these students were asked to give long days to make for the many rehearsals missed due to the snow and ice we have experienced here in Oklahoma over the last few weeks. After seeing this cohesive unit of artists perform, I would never know they missed any rehearsals as they were truly magnificent. The ensemble was made up of Duncan Barrett Brown, Mackenzie Carpenter, Rachel Conn, Cody Dent, Kerrick Dougherty, Abbey Fitzjarrell, Emma Foreman, Sydnee Graves, William Herndon, Emily Paige Hornsby, Dakota Muckelrath, Megan Montgomery, Emily Pace, Michael Russell, Chris Shepard, Jordyn Williams, Kylie Wilson, and Nick Winterrowd.
The twins Dia Janae Baker (Daisy Hilton) and Rebecca Capra (Violet Hilton) will take your breath away with their soaring vocals and more importantly their ability to make you feel with them. They are completely credible as vulnerable, desired objects constantly forced to snag their happiness in little snatches, even as their lives consistently are driven towards misery. This show was double cast and the other set of twins are played by Haley Jane Schafer (Daisy Hilton) and Chelsea Clark (Violet Hilton)
The "Tunnel of Love" number was performed with sensuality and despair and the two main power-ballads, "Who Will Love Me As I Am?" and "I Will Never Leave You," are filled with emotion, pain and hope. At the start of the show, I felt like I was a part of the normal crowd looking in at the freaks. The irony of the journey was I experienced innocence and compassion from the sisters all the while realizing the freak show was really the people who are too afraid to embrace the love placed before them because of the perceived label they will have to wear.
This production is a limited run. You don't want to miss it.
Side Show runs this weekend only (3/6-3/9) at Mitchell Hall on the University of Central Oklahoma Campus. Go to http://www.uco.edu/cfad/ for further information.
Ensemble of UCO's Side Show
Vaudvillian show stopper in Side Show
Michael Stewart, Dia Janae Baker, Rebecca Capra and Nicholas Hunter