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Side Show by Bromley Players at the Bob Hope Theatre

Side Show by Bromley Players
Side Show by Bromley Players

Side Show is a musical based on the incredible lives of Brighton born Daisy and Violet Hilton, conjoined twins who became stage performers in the USA in the 1930s. A strange subject for a musical you might think but Bill Russell (book and lyrics) and Henry Krieger’s (music) piece is superb theatre. Originally staged in 1997, the current production at The Bob Hope Theatre in Eltham, uses the much-changed 2014 Broadway version which was seen at the Southwark Playhouse in 2016.

Side Show tells the amazing story of the twin sisters from their start as sideshow performers in Texas in the 1920s in what was then known as a “freak show” where they’re on display with a bearded lady, a three-legged girl, a dog boy and a “cannibal” amongst others. They’re then discovered by a man who books acts in vaudeville and they soon become stars on the stage and eventually, they move to Hollywood where they star in films such as “Freaks” and “Chained For Life”.

Side Show tells their story sympathetically and with great warmth, charting the problems they faced from being enslaved by a man called Meyer Myers (called “Sir” in Side Show) to their rise to stardom on the stage ending with Violet’s sham marriage to gay dancer Buddy Sawyer. There are some superb songs and the show starts and ends with one of the best “Come Look At The Freaks”. There are some excellent ballads such as “Private Conversation” “You Should Be Loved” and some superb pastiche numbers that move the action along at pace.

The revival at the small but perfectly formed Bob Hope Theatre in Eltham South East London is billed in the programme as an “amateur production” but it’s far from amateur and could easily pass as a professional presentation. The cast are all superb with Nicola Henderson as “Violet” and Deborah Heard as “Daisy” the standout performers both of whom have beautiful voices (although it must be noted that both have professional experience). Other excellent performances come from Daniel Goad as “Terry” and Cory Wordlaw as “Jake but there aren’t any weak links in the cast of over twenty.

The direction from Daniel Lawrence is spot on and the entire cast all work very hard to make the piece work. I’m sure it can’t be easy to direct a cast made up of local amateurs that include a system manager, a virtual PA and two new mums but Lawrence has done an excellent job with this group. One of the things that often let amdram productions of musicals down, is the dancing but no such problem here so choreographer Paul Brookland-Williams deserves a lot of praise for all his hard work. There are a couple of marvellous dance numbers and even some tap dancing that puts some professional performances I’ve seen in the shade.

Another weakness of some amateur shows I’ve seen is the band but no such worries here. Hannah Okendon-Rowe leads the eight-piece band with aplomb and they give great backing for the singers and dancers.

So, all in all, this production of Side Show is the most professional amateur production you’re likely to see; it’s a shame it’s only on for a few days as it deserves a bigger audience. Bravo Bromley Players. Take a bow – you’ve done yourselves proud.

4 stars

Review by Alan Fitter

With echoes of last year’s smash hit musical The Greatest Showman, Side Show is based on the true story of conjoined twins and famed entertainers Violet and Daisy Hilton, a remarkable musical about acceptance, love and embracing one’s uniqueness.

As the starring act of a sideshow, helmed by an abusive ringmaster, Violet and Daisy Hilton are eager to accept an offer of fame, fortune, and potential romance proffered by Terry, a talent scout, and Buddy, a budding musician. As stars on the Orpheum Circuit, it seems that Violet and Daisy have everything they ever wanted. The one thing they lack, however, is the fulfilment of their hearts’ desires. Different as they are, when it comes to matters of the heart, Daisy and Violet have the same burning questions: “Who could proudly stand beside me? Who will love me as I am?”

Listing Information:
Bromley Players Presents Side Show by Bill Russell and Harvey Kreiger.
24th – 27th October 2018
Tuesday to Saturday evenings at 7:45pm performance, Saturday matinee at 2:30pm
Bob Hope Theatre, Wythfield Road, Eltham.
http://www.bobhopetheatre.co.uk/

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