More than freaks and geeks at Atlantis’ Side Show

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A BEARDED WOMAN, a Three-Legged Man, a Lizard Man, a Half-Man-Half Woman, and a Geek all enter the circus singing “come look at the freaks!” Sir, the ringmaster and the man behind the spectacle, then calls in the stars of the show: charming Siamese twins who can definitely sing. This is Broadway’s Side Show, which is coming to Manila on Aug. 31.

If you loved the story, spectacle, and songs of Hugh Jackman’s movie The Greatest Showman, Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group is bringing the same theme, and more, in its production of Side Show.

The musical is a heartwarming tale based on the true story of Daisy and Violet Hilton, conjoined twin entertainers in 1930s. The story is backed up by an epic playlist from the same composer of Dreamgirls’ music, Henry Krieger.

Running at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati City until Sept. 23, the core of the musical is about acceptance, friendship, love, and embracing our own peculiarities.

Daisy and Violet Hilton will be played by Gab Pangilinan and Kayla Rivera, respectively.

How difficult is it to play conjoined twins on stage? Ms. Pangilinan told BusinessWorld it is not easy.




“Being a conjoined twin demands a lot of hard work coming from the two of us. We always have to strategize what to do during the rehearsal period because we have to do everything at the same time: getting a drink of water, using the restroom (of course, we this that separately!), sitting down, and standing up… Basically, there’s a lot of compromise and understanding involved,” she said.

The Hilton twins started out as the starring act of a sideshow at the Orpheum Circuit helmed by the menacing ringmaster, Sir, played by Wency Cornejo. In the song “Come Look at the Freaks!” the ringmaster sings that he adopted the conjoined girls, “gave them moral disciplines, taught them standards, right from wrong. I nurtured their musicality, let them charm you with their song!”

While it seems that the twins are content with what they have, it turns out that they have their unfulfilled hearts’ desires: Violet yearns for a normal life, a husband, and a home, while Daisy seeks popularity. And when an offer to become vaudeville stars lands on the twins’ laps, the two are excited to accept the offer, which comes with what they are yearning for: fame, fortune, and a possible romance with a talent scout (Markki Stroem) and a budding musician (David Ezra).

One of the most popular songs in the musical is the twin’s duet, “Who Will Love Me as I Am?” Though they may want different things, Daisy and Violet share the same questions. The lyrics reflect their fears: “Like an odd exotic creature on display inside a zoo, hearing children asking questions makes me ask some questions, too. Who could see beyond this surface? Who will love me as I am?”

But is the musical capitalizing on society’s fascination with exotics and their stories? “Side Show is more than just a story about ‘freaks’ or one that celebrates uniqueness,” director Steven Conde told BusinessWorld. “It is a story about connections that prove stronger than any physical bond. It is about the importance of family and relationships. It shows us how our most valued relationships can outweigh wealth, fame and even romance,” he said.

While Side Show is Mr. Conde’s first directorial stint with Atlantis, he is no newbie — his directing credits include Wit, My Name is Asher Lev, Suicide Incorporated, and Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead.

Side Show is the perfect example of a musical that can change lives. I am more than excited to direct this gem of a musical and share it with audiences, especially those who might feel weighed down by their own peculiarities.”

Also in the cast are Arman Ferrer, Christine Flores, Chesko Rodriguez, Alex Reyes, Luis Marcelo, Juancho Escoto, Vien King, Timmy Pavino, Jill Peña, Mica Fajardo, and Ring Antonio.

Despite its positive reviews, Side Show had short Broadway runs in 1998 and in 2014 when it was revived, but, it was nominated for four Tony Awards in 1998 including a nod for Best Musical.

“It continues to be one of the most produced musicals globally,” said Bobby Garcia, Atlantis Theatrical’s producing-director. “Add to that, the musical’s show-stopping music and powerful message of celebrating our uniqueness, it was only a matter of time before we brought Side Show to Manila.”

Side Show is choreographed by Cecil Martinez, who has been choreographing Atlantis’ shows for 11 years; the set are by Lawyn Cruz, who last designed for 2012’s God of Carnage; lighting is by JonJon Villareal (The Bridges of Madison County); costumes by Odeon Simpao; musical direction by Farley Asuncion; and vocal coaching by ManMan Anasico.

Side Show opens on Aug. 31 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium, RCBC Plaza, Makati. For tickets visit www.ticketworld.com.ph. — Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman

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