"SIDE SHOW" THE MUSICAL

A Review

By Walt Hudson

 

A revival of the 1997 musical Side Show played at the Kennedy Center in Washington D. C. June 14 - July 14 2014.  The new version surpassed the original production in every aspect and received glowing comments from the critics.

 

The stars of the show are Daisy Hilton played by Emily Padgett and Violet Hilton played by Erin Davie.  The Hilton Sisters were conjoined twins who appeared n sideshow and the vaudeville circuit of the 1930's.  Their story is told through song, dance, and production numbers conceived by Bill Russell, Henry Kriger and Bill Condon.

 

The spectacular opening song set in a sideshow tent "Come Look at the Freaks" introduces several human oddities with stark physical deformities each who sing of their woes.  Through skillful theatrical make-up and creative costumes we meet the lizard man, dog faced boy, tattooed gal, bearded lady, armless gal, a hermaphrodite, three legged man, geek and fortune teller.

 

Ten new songs have been added to this version of the show.  Act Two reveals what happens to the twins personally and professionally after their life in the carnival world.  One critic claimed the show was a heartwarming and heart-wrenching experience not to be forgotten.

 

In real life the twins were born to Kate Skinner an unwed barmaid in Brighton, England Feb. 5, 1908.  They were born joined at their hips.  Skinner sold the babies to Mary Hilton.  Hilton and her husband controlled them with physical abuse.  They were put on display when they were three years old performing a song and dance act!  The Hiltons kept all the money the girls earned.

 

By 1927 they were appearing in the U.S. in sideshows and eventually vaudeville houses.  Each twin had a couple of short lasting marriages!

 

They appeared briefly in Tod Browning's 1932 classic film FREAKS.

 

In 1951 they were featured in a fictional B-rated exploitation film CHAINED for LIFE. (Both these films are avail from Netflix.)

 

When vaudeville died the twins made appearances in drive-in theaters.  They usually appeared with the showing of CHAINED for LIFE.

 

In 1961 they were booked into a drive-in in Charlotte, NC. when their tour manager abandoned them leaving them with no money.  They found a low paying job as baggers in a food market.

 

In Jan. 1969 after they failed to report to work for several days, police found them dead in their apartment.  The Hong Kong flu was the cause and forensic examination reported Daisy died first and Violet died two days later.  They were buried in Forest Lawn West Cemetery in Charlotte NC.

 

For more details on the Hilton sisters see Alex Doll's review of "Bound by Flesh" the straight forward documentary by film maker Leslie Zemeckis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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