Everything Old is New Again: Bill Russell, Bill Condon and Emily Padgett Share the Story Behind the Re-Imagined Side Show

By Evan Henerson
11 Nov 2013

Emily Padgett and Erin Davie
Photo by Kevin Berne

"But you're not casting a single role," noted Condon, who emphasized that he was under no pressure to cast stars. "So you can get someone who is like the greatest thing, but there's nobody who looks like her. End of story."

While on a hiatus from the tour of Flashdance the Musical, Padgett walked into an auditioned room with a room full of hopeful Daisys and Violets, short and tall, collegially passing around throat lozenges. Padgett, who is 5'7", had brought heels of all sizes for the occasion, and she was jazzed to discover that Davie, who had done the workshops, was wearing the same sized heels.

"We did 'Feelings You've Got To Hide' and 'I Will Never Leave You' and we sort of clicked in with each other," Padgett said. "We had never sung together, but it felt very comfortable standing next to her and just singing. It was great."

To say that the two women — both Southerners — have been inseparable ever since may be an easy joke, but it's also true. They've conducted research together, hung out extensively during off times and even "trick or treated like 10 year olds" during a rare off day at Disneyland.

On the more technical side, Padgett and Davie wore a connecting device over their rehearsal clothes that locked them together during rehearsals and quickly began to negotiate the many obstacles of movement and synchronization.

"The hardest part for us is going through doorways," said Padgett. "We're a maniac going up stairs, but turning a corner and getting over to a platform is tricky."

Whether for publicity purposes or otherwise, the real-life Hiltons made a point of emphasizing their differences, with shyer shrinking Violet taking a back seat to her more outgoing sister Daisy. That dichotomy is part of Side Show's dramatic conflict.

"I feel like we're cast very well," Padgett said. "I'm more hyper than she is, for sure. I ask lot of questions. She's more laid back and more quiet, and she's a very thoughtful person in that way. She thinks a lot about what she's going to say. It's been interesting. Even learning choreography for a show, you don't realize different everyone's process is until you're stuck next to somebody."

Condon remembers one of the early rehearsals where Padgett and Davie had been taught a bit of vaudeville shtick for the number "Typical Girls Next Door." After giving them an hour to rehearse it, Condon returned to see how they were coming along.

"Emily already had this huge smile, and Erin was doing it, but she was a little pissed off because she had made a mistake," Condon says. "It was like, 'We could show this right now.' They were so in character."