(Charles Isherwood’s article appeared in The New York Times, 11/17.)
Being a freak is virtually the new normal, so the timing couldn’t be better for the thrilling Broadway revival of “Side Show” that blazed open Monday night at the St. James Theater. The musical by Bill Russell and Henry Krieger, about conjoined twins searching for love and fame, or maybe just a half-measure of happiness, seems eerily appropriate for an era in which oddballs, outliers and anybody with a desperate need for the spotlight — and a way with a webcam — can achieve celebrity of some kind.
But “Side Show,” based on the lives of the real-life twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, who became vaudeville stars in the 1930s, invites us to do much more than come look at the freaks, as the electrifying opening number beckons. This beautiful and wrenching musical, lovingly directed by Bill Condon, asks us to step inside their skins and feel what it’s like to be celebrated one moment, rejected the next, and to have the strange consolation of a companion who shares it all: the pain, the joy, the hope, the frustration.