Hollywood film director Bill Condon is making his Broadway debut next month with a revival of the 1997 musical Side Show about British conjoined twins, Daisy and Violet Hilton, who toured the vaudeville circuit in the United States in the 1930s. Condon, the director of “he Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn films and Dreamgirls and an Oscar winner for his screenplay for Gods and Monsters, has reworked the play that premiered in 1997 and is based on the book of the same name by Bill Russell.
The previews began on October 28 with the opening night on November 17. “We started having these discussions about Side Show which had been so beloved when it was originally here but never really got the audience it deserved,” Condon told Reuters after a press preview of the show. “And I had some ideas about ways in which it might shift and we started a long conversation that included Bill Russell.” The original 1997 musical earned mixed reviews and ran for just three months, but it developed cult status. Condon’s revised version premiered last year at the LaJolla Playhouse in California and had a run at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The revival will have significant changes. Several songs have been added, while others were cut and substantial rewrites were made.
But Condon said the biggest challenge for the new production was finding the right actresses to play the conjoined twins, who lead a cast of misfits and freaks in the show.
“Because you can imagine how hard it is to find two women who can sing, dance, act, be completely different kinds of people and look like they are twins,” he explained. “And we found these two really, really fantastic actresses.”
Emily Padgett, who appeared in Rock of Ages and Grease and Erin Davie (A Little Night Music and The Mystery of Edwin Drood) play the twins. The look-alikes wore a single corset in preparation for their roles.
“We were sewn in a corset together and we kind of stayed that way though rehearsal and we tried to stay that way during breaks,” Padgett said.
“But we are very similar from hip to toe, our strides are similar, so it wasn’t as hard as you might think,” she added. The actresses said they have developed a sisterly bond, loving and hating each other at the same time.
In a review of the Washington production in June, the New York Times described the show with the headline, A Grandeur That Eclipses the Grotesque. “The fellow with a third leg really appears to have that extra appendage, the lizard man sports scary scales, and the hermaphrodite seems to be split down the middle,” it added.