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Review Roundup: SIDE SHOW at the Kennedy Center

Review Roundup: SIDE SHOW at the Kennedy Center

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts opened SIDE SHOW in the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater on June 19, 2014. Side Show features book and lyrics by Bill Russell and music by Henry Krieger, and is directed by Academy Award winner Bill Condon. Sam Davis serves as musical director and arranger and conducts the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra. The Kennedy Center production of Side Show is produced in association with La Jolla Playhouse.

Let's see what the critics had to say:

Charles Isherwood, New York Times: The director of the movies "Gods and Monsters" and "Dreamgirls" (with music by Mr. Krieger), Mr. Condon has forsaken the stripped-down approach taken by the original director, Robert Longbottom, in favor of a brighter, more vivid visual style. (David Rockwell designed the lavish sets.) In the original version's opening number, "Come Look at the Freaks," the players in the side show appeared essentially normal, only striking the occasional pose to suggest a deformity. Here, the costumes (by Paul Tazewell) and makeup (by Cookie Jordan and the married team Dave Elsey and Lou Elsey) elaborately evoke their physical aberrances, bringing to disturbing life the prurient aspect of the side shows that were popular entertainments in the Depression, when the musical takes place.

Paul Harris, Variety: With Condon and the original creative duo making wholesale revisions, the team has realigned the book from an abstract work to a more vivid biographical piece based on the true story of the Hilton twins, adding 10 new numbers and cutting others. The revised storyline might register as more compelling than convincing, but it breezes along nicely under Condon's sturdy hand and is adorned with polish in every department... Erin Davie and Emily Padgett, playing Violet and Daisy, lead a first-rate cast. With their inspiring soprano voices, comedic timing and obvious compatibilities (they even look like twins), the two are thoroughly convincing as sensitive gals who just want to be like everyone else.

Peter Marks, Washington Post: In the extensively rewritten version of the musical at the Kennedy Center, re-engineered under the guidance of director Bill Condon, this song remains pretty much the same. It's the "freaks" who've been radically reconceived. On Broadway, the singers were exotic only in the mind's eye. Now, in the incarnation starting preview performances Saturday, they've been cast and elaborately costumed to resemble the "attractions" they describe: the human pincushion, the pygmies, the lizard man, the living Venus, the dog boy, the geek.

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