I confess that I primarily attended the Conejo Players Theatre production of Side Show on Saturday evening because my friend and colleague, Randi, had a leading role, which is plenty reason to go because she is uber-talented, but my wife was sick and needed to stay home so I probably would have missed the show had it not featured Randi.
And I confess that Side Show did not have a great run on Broadway. Its initial run in the 1990s did not catch on, nor did its attempt at revival a couple of years ago, so the name of the musical just doesn’t have much of a draw.
But I’m sure glad I went.
Side Show is a musical loosely based on the lives of conjoined twins, Daisy and Violet Hilton (1908-1969). It is a sad but important story. Randi and her “twin” were phenomenal in pulling off their demanding roles—imagine singing/acting/dancing/costume changing with someone literally joined at the hip! More importantly, they effectively led their audiences to consider what it is like to be a “freak” on display. Spoiler: It is not a life you would choose.
While we can all relate to feeling different, by very definition most of us spend more time staring at anomalies than being one. From the homeless to the celebrities to all stops in between, all whose very existence creates material for stand-up comics have a unique challenge in this particular life, and it is easier to point, laugh, stare, critique, and/or avoid them than to pause and consider what it must be like—not to mention pause to get to know, care about, and dare I say love—those unique human beings we prefer to remain as caricatures.
My favorite moment in the musical came at the end of the first act when the twins led the “freaks” in a song titled, “Who Will Love Me As I Am?” I think that is a question endemic to human existence. Most of us find a safe and comfortable spot in this world to locate an answer, but not everyone does.
My deep thanks to Randi and the cast of Side Show for reminding me that everyone deserves an answer.