Side Show

Theatre, Musicals
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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Sweetly eccentric musical curio about a pair of conjoined twins

A pair of conjoined twins may not seem the obvious heroines of a musical. But the true-life tale of 1930s vaudeville stars Daisy and Violet Hilton is an intriguing one and forms the basis of this likeable show from Bill Russell and Henry Krieger, best known for 'Dreamgirls'. First seen on Broadway in 1997, where it failed to take off, this marks its UK premiere.

'I’m very well connected,' says slick producer Terry (Haydn Oakley) as he promises the girls a life of stardom and escape from their tyrannical ‘freakshow’ owner. 'So are we,' they fire back. It’s an evening filled with smile-inducing moments like this, even if it suffers from a meandering plot and rather repetitive score (needless to say, there are a lot of duets). But a fine ensemble, led by the excellent Louise Dearman and Lara Pitt-Pulford as the English-born ‘siamese’ sisters, bring so much vitality and vocal prowess to proceedings that such flaws are easily forgiven.

Hannah Chissick’s plush production looks and sounds great. Designer Takis creates a circus aesthetic befitting the cast of misfits - from a bearded lady to a ‘human pin cushion’. The practical concern of having Dearman and Pitt-Pulford literally joined at the hip is dealt with through crafty needlework, and doesn’t stop them sporting a parade of glamorous outfits. It’s only when the love affairs take off in act two - Jerry and his friend Buddy (Dominic Hodson) fall for a sister each - that things get a little unconvincing; I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure conjoined twins would be unable to stand back-to-back.

This is an enjoyable romp about learning to love who you are, and who you’re with. There is also a nice dynamic between Dearman’s extroverted Daisy and Pitt-Pulford’s more shrinking Violet. But despite its many charms, 'Side Show' goes down as a curiosity rather than a classic.

BY: THEO BOSANQUET

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