The University of West Georgia (UWG) began their 2015-2016 theater season with the musical Side Show. The play was performed Oct. 7-11 at the Townsend Center for Performing Arts (TCPA). Adriano Cabral, the assistant professor of theater at UWG, directed the show while Bill Russell wrote the book and lyrics. Henry Krieger created the music, and Harold Wheeler created the orchestrations. David Chase, a writer and director, directed the vocals and dance arrangements.
The play revolved around the real life of Siamese twins Violet and Daisy Hilton, who are singers and performers for a circus during the Great Depression. Once the twins are discovered by Terry and Buddy, two handsome talent scouts involved in the vaudeville business, they become rising stars. During their climb to fame, the two women must face their physical obstacle and differentiating views on love and dreams—two things that involve the businessmen and their close friend Jake.
Taylor Bahin and Abagail Dawkins play the roles of Violet and Daisy. Bryan Jones played the part of the arrogant manager, Terry, while Kenya White functioned as the eccentric Buddy. David Wilkerson completed the love triangle by portraying Jake, the Cannibal King, who protects the girls and is in love with Violet.
Bahin and Dawkins performed multiple harmonious duets throughout the play, and their voices complemented each other, further attaching the two together. Jones struggled to complete his high notes. His supposed arrogant nature fell flat when he struggled to keep up with White’s high energy and vibrant attitude, two qualities that reflected his happy-go-lucky persona. Wilkerson’s lovesick character was unfortunately off-stage during most songs, but when in the spotlight, his powerful voice and pining demeanor for Violet demanded the audience’s attention.
Bahin and Dawkins used their versatile voices to display their ongoing emotions that ranged from jubilance to heartbreak. Being stuck together, they often finished what the other was saying and managed to capture the audience’s heart with their struggle to accomplish their separate dreams. Violet, wanting a husband and family, must find balance with Daisy, who is fighting for recognition and fame. Their torn desires often involved the three men and the ever shifting love triangle that involved them all, but the women take center stage over and over again.
The setting and props were minimalistic; the only big piece of setting was the stage and posters advertising the twins during the circus routine. It correctly utilized the circus era with the quirky posters, red drapes and flashing light bulbs. Most of the play occurred with little to no props, forcing the audience to solely focus on the actors. The blocking, or character positions, involved the entire stage, especially during the dancing routines during Violet and Daisy’s vaudeville performance. However, when it was the twins by themselves, their movement across the desolate stage reflected their internal feeling of being alone with the exception of the other twin.
The lighting had a few radical moments, such as when the entire stage filled with red during the last song, an impassioned reprise of “Come Look at the Freaks.” For the most part, the lighting reflected the vaudeville era by having one spotlight follow the main singer or performer during a scene. The emotional “Tunnel of Love” song featured a set of red lights in the shape of a heart atop the carnival ride. Here the performers were cast in darkness while one singer at a time was lit up with the spotlight, highlighting their individual internal thoughts on their fears of love.
The characters’ costumes displayed the vivid, dynamic era of the circus performers alongside the vaudeville entertainers. Violet and Daisy’s costumers specifically underwent a change. Their flowery circus dresses emphasized their innocence and youth, and they wore velvet, sparkling dresses with pearls and heels during their vaudeville act. Terry’s suit and fedora captured the Great Depression look while Jake’s Cannibal King tribal outfit, complete with face paint and a shrunken head, reflected his intended circus character.
Being a musical, the play had a vibrant array of different song choices and tempos. Many songs featured upbeat rhythms and catchy show tunes, especially during the beginning with the circus and its gaudy melody “Come Look at the Freaks.” Most songs were complete with the guitar, drums and keyboard. While the sheer volume of the music occasionally drowned out the singers, the performers and their voices paired beautifully with the band to make each song stand apart from the next.
Overall, the play was largely successful. It covered a broad range of themes, specifically marriage and love and how it affects other dreams coming true. Bahin and Dawkins stole the heart of their audience by being denied continuously the one thing that will grant them happiness, and their voices and facial expressions capture everyone’s attention. The only struggle in the show was Jones trying to reach sustained high notes and struggling to find a place with the girls and White; he was often blasted off stage by his cast members. The two and a half hour long musical never held a boring moment, and the songs kept everyone waiting for the next scene. The cast experienced a large applause at the end of the show, and the main characters received whistles and shouts of praise.