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

Bill Russell
Bill Russell

Director Bill Condon, librettist/lyricist Bill Russell and star Emily Padgett chat with Playbill.com about the newly re-imagined production of Side Show, currently in previews at the La Jolla Playhouse.


In the interest of building something entirely new, the director of a re-imagined production of Side Show started with everything that was, well, old — including material that had not made the cut during the first go-round. Director Bill Condon asked the musical's creators for everything they had put together. He characterizes those early steps as being something of an "archeological dig."

Condon did his job well, and the creators held nothing back. Once he got into the room with composer Henry Krieger and librettist/lyricist Bill Russell, Condon reached into the archives and started referencing obscure Side Show-iana.

"He was bringing up songs we didn't even remember," recalled Russell. "'What? We wrote a song called that?' We have written a lot for this project over the years."

That figures to be the case when you're attempting to create a musical based on the biographies of real-life vaudeville stars Daisy and Violet Hilton, who also happen to have been conjoined twins. The original Broadway production of Side Show took six years from germination to opening curtain on Broadway. It closed after 91 performances drawing five Tony nominations — with stars Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner sharing a single nomination for Best Actress — and spawning a cast album and a legion of fans.

"Whatever insecurities, whatever inner freak we have, there's something about this show that connects with people," added Emily Padgett, who plays Daisy Hilton in the re-imagined production of Side Show currently in previews at the La Jolla Playhouse.

Although talk of a revival surfaced practically from the moment of the show's closing, the current production has also had a lengthy development period, with another three years spanning the time it took Krieger, Russell and Condon to do the reboot of Side Show, which is scheduled to open Nov. 16, followed by a summer 2014 run at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Side Show's co-producer.

With this reconsideration, fans of the original production will have a task before them if they hope to sing along. Condon estimates that 55% of the show's material is new; the La Jolla team has been labeling it Side Show 2.0. Given Condon's cinematic background, this new Director's Cut might carry the title "Daisy and Violet Hilton: Unchained."

"I think there are always going to be the dyed in the wool people," Condon admitted. "You hope that because this is all being mounted by people who love the show, you hope that that if people are open to the combination of the old and the new, they might really fall in love with this new production. Let's see."

"The show has touched so many people in so many different ways," added Padgett. "I definitely knew the Ripley-Skinner 'Who Will Love Me As I Am?' awesomeness."


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