The Chicago-area premiere of the cult musical, Side Show, a box office smash for the nonprofit Northlight Theatre in Skokie, IL, closes July 9, leaving audiences and Northlight personnel high.
The tuner about real-life conjoined sisters Violet and Daisy grossed $400,000 in eight weeks, with $220,000 coming from single tickets sales (the previous top single-ticket gross was $206,000). The show has set box office records at Northlight; Always...Pasty Cline was the previous high grosser.
Managing director Richard Friedman told Playbill On-Line the pop flavored show about Siamese twins leaving the freak show for fame and pain was a risk for the theatre, which has a traditional, conservative audience. The risk, he said, paid off.
"Our subscribers went crazy over this," Friedman said, adding that the onetime Broadway musical by Bill Russell and Henry Krieger became a "destination" show for Chicagoans who live a half-hour away. There was also significant interest from the gay community, he said.
The company invested in new lighting and sound equipment for the staging. In the coming 2000-2001 season, Northlight will offer the world premiere of Tony Award-winning composer Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years, about the rise and fall of a couple's relationship. *
Northlight's Side Show opened May 24, with Kristen Behrendt and Susie McMonagle as respective twins Violet and Daisy Hilton. Behrendt understudied Violet on Broadway (and went on) during the musical's brief run in 1997. She later played Daisy in the Theatreworks staging in Palo Alto, CA. Both actresses have played Fantine in Broadway's Les Miserables.
The musical by composer Krieger (Dreamgirls) and lyricist Russell (Pageant) concerns the rise of real-life "Siamese" twins Daisy and Violet Hilton (born in 1908), who leave the freak show to star in vaudeville and question their place in society.
Previews began May 17 and performances were extended to July 2 and then to July 9 at Northlight's 350-seat thrust space.
Joe Leonardo directs a company that includes Paul Alessandro, Roger Anderson, Nikkieli DeMone (as Jake), Tommy Hahn, Cory James, Heidi Kettenring, Melissa LaFrance, Jill Monaco, James Moye (as Terry), Phillip Pickens, Sam Samuelson (as Buddy), Neda Spears, Andrew Waters and David Girolmo (who replaced Jonathan Weir as The Boss during the extension).
Designers are Tom Ryan (set), Nancy Missimi (costumes), Michael Philippi (lighting) and Joe Cerqua (sound).
Choreography is by Marc Robin, musical direction is by Jeff Lewis.
Tickets are $32-$42. Northlight is at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd. in Skokie. For information, call (847) 673-6300.
Side Show had a short Broadway run in fall 1997 starring Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner, but its cast album and word of mouth helped generate a loyal following. It has enjoyed popular regional stagings in Palo Alto, CA, Arlington, VA, and elsewhere.
-- By Kenneth Jones