Condon, Davie, Wolfe, Krieger, Russell, Lazar, May, Steggert Revive Side Show "Freaks" in Reading

News   Condon, Davie, Wolfe, Krieger, Russell, Lazar, May, Steggert Revive Side Show "Freaks" in Reading
 
Betsy Wolfe and Erin Davie are Daisy and Violet, the famous conjoined Hilton sisters, in the Roundabout Theatre Company's current 29-hour reading and re-examination of Bill Russell and Henry Krieger's cult musical Side Show, Playbill.com has learned.
Bill Condon
Bill Condon

Rehearsals began June 3 under director Bill Condon, the screenwriter who directed Hollywood's "Dreamgirls." A private industry presentation is expected June 13.

Davie is a veteran of Broadway's Grey Gardens and Curtains, as well as Off-Broadway's The Glorious Ones.

Wolfe appeared in Ace at The Old Globe and in the Boston and San Francisco sitdowns of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.

Condon, librettist-lyricist Russell and composer Krieger are taking a fresh look at the musical about the vaudeville-era Hilton sisters, who appeared in freak shows, vaudeville and film. The cult Tony Award-nominated musical had a short Broadway run in 1997-98. The score was preserved on a cast album.

The current developmental cast includes Josh Henry (In the Heights) as Jake, Aaron Lazar (Les Miserables) as Terry, Tony Award winner Jefferson Mays (I Am My Own Wife) as Sir, Bobby Steggert (110 in the Shade) as Buddy, Linda Balgord (The Pirate Queen) as Auntie, Terry Burrell (Threepenny Opera, Thoroughly Modern Millie) as Fortune Teller, Anderson Davis (Les Miserables) as Ray, Toni DiBuono (Wonderful Town, Forbidden Broadway) as Hottentot, Christy Faber (Les Miserables) as Sally, Daniel C. Levine (Chicago, The Rocky Horror Show, Jesus Christ Superstar) as Bearded Lady, Deven May (Bat Boy) as Houdini, Raymond McLeod (Wonderful Town) as Browning, Julie Reiber (All Shook Up, Brooklyn) as Delores, David Turner (In My Life, The Ritz) as Geek and Andrew Varela (Little Women) as Dr. Weldon. New characters, cut songs, new songs and book revisions are part of this new exploration.

Russell remains the lyricist-librettist, and Krieger is the composer. Sam Davis is the musical director. Hollywood's Condon, who directed and wrote the film of Krieger's "Dreamgirls" and wrote the screenplay of the Academy Award-winning "Chicago," expressed to Krieger in 2007 that he'd like to take a crack at directing a new stage version of Side Show one day. The result is this reading.

As is the custom with developmental readings at the Roundabout, there is no promise that Side Show will get a full production by the not-for-profit, but the reading news is enough to whet the appetite of countless fans who cherish the cast album of the pop-and-pastiche infused score.

There have been regional revivals of the musical since it ended its run at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in January 1998, after only 91 performances.

The musical told the tale of real-life sisters attached at the hip — literally. ("Siamese twins" is the old parlance; "conjoined twins" is now preferred.) The women navigate their feelings and dream of love and life beyond the freak show.

On Broadway, Alice Ripley played Violet and Emily Skinner played Daisy. The roles — asking them to belt irony-free anthems such as "I Will Never Leave You" — made them theatre stars and earned them a joint Tony nomination. The show, score and book were also Tony-nommed.

"I think the show is substantially different and substantially the same," Russell previously told Playbill.com. "By that I mean, we're keeping all the big showpiece numbers…but we've written new material and restructured the show."

On June 4 he said a handful of new numbers have been added, and some old numbers have been cut. The writers are seeking to deepen the main characters. "We do go into their background more than in the original," Russell said.

Some material that didn't make it into the original production is being explored here. Russell is thrilled about Condon's participation. "He loves the piece," Russell said. "He came to the first meeting so incredibly well prepared, with pages of notes. He's just got a new perspective on it."

The musical will remain in a two-act form, according to Russell, who said he's had some of the rewrite ideas in the back of his mind for years, prompted in part by seeing regional productions in the past decade.

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Robert Longbottom directed and choreographed the Broadway original, which featured Jeff McCarthy and Hugh Panaro as the ladies' love interests.

Musical numbers in the Broadway show included "Come Look at the Freaks," "Like Everyone Else," "You Deserve a Better Life," "Crazy, Deaf and Blind," "The Devil You Know," "More Than We Bargained For," "Feelings You've Got to Hide," "When I'm by Your Side," "Say Goodbye to the Freak Show," "Overnight Sensation," "Leave Me Alone," "We Share Everything," "The Interview," "Who Will Love Me as I Am?," "Rare Songbirds on Display," "New Year's Day," "Private Conversation," "One Plus One Equals Three," "You Should Be Loved," "Tunnel of Love," "Beautiful Day for a Wedding," "Marry Me, Terry" and "I Will Never Leave You."

Erin Davie and Betsy Wolfe
Erin Davie and Betsy Wolfe Photo by Joan Marcus (Davie)
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