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