The Broadway musical Side Show, which closed Jan. 3, after a three-month run is indeed coming back: in California.
TheatreWorks of Palo Alto, CA, has just announced its 1998-99 season -- and the Henry Krieger/Bill Russell musical about Siamese twins in vaudeville is on it.
Robert Longbottom directed and choreographed the show on Broadway, but TheatreWorks lists Robert Kelley as director and Bick Goss as choreographer, making the California production a separate, regional staging unconnected to any official tour of the show -- a fact confirmed by TheatreWorks spokesperson Carla Befera (Feb. 6). The office of Broadway producer Emanuel Azenberg had no knowledge of the TheatreWorks mounting but assumed (correctly) it was a homegrown production.
Side Show is scheduled to reach TheatreWorks Oct. 21, with an official opening Oct. 24 for a run through Nov. 8.
Amazingly, rumors of Side Show's return to Broadway refuse to die. Producers announced, Jan. 23, that despite efforts to raise money to relaunch the musical at the Richard Rodgers Theatre in time for the Tonys, the show would not reopen. And yet, a load-out of sets, costumes and props scheduled for earlier this week didn't happen, and rumors persist the producers are trying to make another go of it. The Bill Evans publicity office has received no word on the show's plans, and the Azenberg office also had no information to provide.
The Broadway Side Show closed Jan. 3 after just 91 performances, but a strong last-minute push by devoted fans -- self-styled "Freaks," after the show's opening number -- and a sense that the show had been under-advertised, prompted a "bring back Side Show" effort that occupied the show's creators and producers for much of January.
Eighteen of those Freaks met for the first time Sunday afternoon, Feb. 8, at Sam's Restaurant in NYC to reminisce about the show and plan strategy.
Participant Eric Engel wrote to Playbill On-Line about the luncheon: "Everyone was very pleased to meet one another and quickly launched into conversation. Some meals were ordered, and then a cake was brought out, decorated with the Side Show logo. Many pictures of the group were taken around the cake, as well as candid shots. They should soon be available at the Side Show web site, http://www.ios-ny.com.
For a while, it seemed almost a fait accomplit that the Nederlander Organization was bringing Side Show back to the Richard Rodgers Theatre for a Tony-time run. Two million dollars in investment money was lined up for the show's reanimation. But until the money was signed, sealed and delivered, the producers held off on making an announcement of Side Show's return.
Early in the day (Jan. 23), Playbill On-Line learned from an informed source that director Longbottom had separated from the project. A few hours later, a Side Show cast-member told Playbill On-Line that offers to the actors had been rescinded, and the whole deal was off.
In a faxed press release that afternoon, spokespersons at the Bill Evans office announced that the show will not reopen. No reason was given for the decision, though in a statement, the Evans office mentions reasons the first incarnation closed despite getting a number of good reviews: "Strong audience resistance seemed based on a wide perception that the production would be a 'freak show,' a forbidding, unsettling experience. Attempts to overcome this formidable marketing problem were not effective."
The statement added, "Side Show producers Emanuel Azenberg, Joseph Nederlander, Herschel Waxman, Janice McKenna and Scott Nederlander are committed to the future of this project and look forward to its next incarnation."
There has been talk of a tour or a London production, but the Jan. 23 statement gave no further specifics.
The producers did express the hope the project would have a future, and thanked "every member of the Side Show family for their support and enthusiasm."