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
Photo by Dirty Sugar

Padgett (Flashdance the Musical, Grease) goes hip-to-hip with Violet, played by Erin Davie (Grey Gardens, The Mystery of Edwin Drood). They are joined by Manoel Felciano, Matthew Hydzik, Robert Joy, David St. Louis and Keala Settle in what marks Condon's stage directing debut.

Despite his cinematic credentials, Condon professes to be every bit the theatre hound. This is reflected in his choice of films, which include the adaptation of "Chicago" (which earned him a 2003 Oscar nomination) and the adaptation and direction of "Dreamgirls." The development of Side Show was delayed somewhat by Condon directing the last two parts of the "Twilight Saga."

Even so, to hear Condon tell it, the jump to theatre was inevitable.

"I grew up in New York and I was in the theatre program in high school," he said. "We would sneak off on Wednesdays and sneak into the second act of plays. Working in the theatre has kind of been one of those things that you dreams that you kind of put off as you're busy with the rest of your life."

Condon and Krieger, who share an agent, worked closely together on "Dreamgirls." Having seen the Broadway staging of Side Show — as well as a production of the play at Burbank's Colony Theatre — multiple times, Condon was a longtime fan of the show.

"It was always the power of the girls. It sort of feels like, oh God, you want to know more about them," he said. "For me, having done so many movies that are based on real characters, it started with reading about the girls and thinking, 'Wow. There are so many great events that could be dramatized from their lives.'"

Conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton were born to an unmarried barmaid who sold them to the midwife Mary Hilton. As they grew older, the singing, dancing and musical instrument-playing sisters became carnival and vaudeville attractions, and abuse and exploitation accompanied their fame. Both sisters married, but neither their romantic lives nor their careers ended happily. The Hilton sisters are featured in Tod Browning's film "Freaks," as a version of themselves in the 1950 film "Chained for Life" and are also the subject of the 2006 Dean Jensen-authored biography "The Lives and Loves of Daisy and Violet Hilton."