Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Review: Side Show on Broadway

Disclaimer: I, and a guest, was invited to see Side Show in exchange for a mention on the blog (thank you to Side Show and 87AM). This, however, does not affect my review in any way.

I have to be honest. I barely knew anything about Side Show when I was first contacted about the show. I had seen the image from when I had been in the city, but I hadn't heard about the show. But as soon as I read about it, I got super excited because it sounded like the kind of show I'd love.

And I enjoyed it more than I was already anticipating, though there were some flaws that keep me from being completely in love with the show. But the good stuff first.

The cast was fabulous, with some standout performances. Erin Davey (Violet Hilton) and Emily Padgett (Daisy Hilton) were spectacular in their own way; their acting was so amazing, and they both truly captured the two girls and their similarities and differences. My personal favorites were David St. Louis, who killed it as Jake, Brandon Bieber, dancer extraordinaire, and Charity Angel Dawson, who was my favorite member of the freaks cast because of her voice. His voice is just mind-blowing, and I really hope he'll land another role soon because more people need to be exposed to his talent. Charity Angel Dawson (Fortune Teller) also had an amazing voice, and actually, both David and Charity's voices really shined in the song "The Devil You Know." And as a dancer, I loved Brandon Beiber's dancing; it stuck out to me right away, and I wasn't surprised to find out that he's the dance captain. But honestly, the entire cast, particularly "the freaks," were just great, and the chemistry between everyone was evident.

Next was the singing and the score. Wow! I really loved the big numbers, and I also love how there are silly ones, some deeply emotional ones, and some in between. I feel like that truly fit the tone of the show--a bit light and funny at times, deeply emotional and heartbreaking at times, some in-between times, but overall amazing. There were some songs that seemed a bit unnecessary--some did break up the drama and add a bit of humor--and seemed to break a bit away from the story, but at the end, I really enjoyed the music as a whole.

The last thing is the costumes and sets in general. The moving Freaks set reminded me so much of when I saw Newsies, but that'll lead me in a different direction. So I was a tad irked afterward about how it was mentioned once that this takes place during the Depression but you never really see any of that, but then I remembered the life Daisy and Violet were living for most of the plot, and it didn't really bother me. I especially loved Daisy and Violet's outfits, of course. (Also, that on-stage costume switch was just so woah! to see, despite a slight wardrobe malfunction for one of the girls.)

Now, onto some of the more bothersome parts...to be honest, it was mostly in regards to the plot. The story seemed to be going in an upward projection for the first part of the show, but somewhere along the way, it began to fall apart, leaving me disappointed by the end. Firstly, there were some character-related issues. Though I absolutely loved Jake, it felt like he was in and out of the story and thus in and out of the girls' lives, which of course wasn't true from what we were told. It just felt like he was a plot device when he could've been a much more stellar character. (Also, the not-so-subtle racial undertones were noted.) Then there was the fact that all the romantic plot lines were just so weak--there was seemingly no chemistry between any of the characters involved other than the bond between the sisters themselves. The Jake-Violet part was only semi-hinted at in the beginning but hardly continued in any way. Maybe it was meant to be a surprise, but it just didn't feel that way. But for me, the worst was the Terry-Daisy and Buddy-Violet romances because it seemed either convenient or like a trick meant to further make the girls stay with them and the vaudeville show. There seemed to be little actual chemistry, though they sure tried to make it seem like there was something there. And the hinting that Buddy's gay but oh-I-guess-not-because-wedding! was cringe-worthy at best, and it made the whole romance-might-be-a-ploy idea seem not too far-fetched. I really thought the thing with Buddy was going to lead somewhere, but his possibly being gay was just never brought up again and later didn't seem like had ever been hinted.

And perhaps what bothered me most was the end itself. So I know the show is based on the real lives of the Hilton sisters, but seeing as how the show was already changed a bit for this revival, I don't see why they couldn't change the end a bit. I feel like part of what drew me to the show when I read about it was the fact that it was supposed to be about the girls coming to accept who they are and then through that, learning to do what they want and figure out what's best for them without letting someone dictate that. They went from the hands of Sir to the arguably manipulative Terry (and Buddy), which was another never-mentioned-again plot lines that seemed important but was messed up because of the messed up romances, and then SPOILERS into the hands of a guy making a movie about them called Freaks. This leaves me feeling conflicted because on the one hand, perhaps they're okay with being freaks in the eyes of the world because they understand that the world will always see them that way and that they were the ones who changed inside. On the other hand, it feels like the entire journey the girls when through didn't matter because they're still just freaks and being taken advantage of by the movie director or producer or whoever. END SPOILER The ending just felt so anti-climactic and slightly disappointing, especially since the first half had set up for a great second half, which failed to deliver.

Overall, the show was enjoyable though certainly not my favorite. Many flaws in the characters and plot kept the show from being spectacular and on top of its game. I would say, if you have the time to see the show before it closes, go do so and quickly because the show ends on January 4th (!!!). The music and acting are really amazing, and if the show had a stronger plot, the show would've been ever greater. But if you can't find the time, it's not the end of the world. I'm sad the show won't have a longer run, but I'm happy to have been exposed to it this time around.

And thanks again to Side Show and 87AM for the opportunity to see the show before it closes.
Side Show: Website (buy tickets!) | Twitter

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