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About three and a half weeks ago, I entered the Eisenhower Theater at The Kennedy Center uncertain of what I’d experience during Side Show. As soon as the opening number, “Come Look at the Freaks”, began, I knew my front row center ticket had been a good investment. By the end of the Act 1, I was already thinking about how many more times I could see this production at The Kennedy Center, for after hearing Emily Padgett’s (Daisy Hilton) and Erin Davie’s (Violet Hilton) stunning rendition of “Who Will Love Me As I Am?”, I was hooked.

Then came Act 2. I thought Act 1 was divine, but Act 2 was perfection. Having seen Ryan Silverman (Terry Connor) perform in the past, I was eager for his character’s soliloquy, “Private Conversation”, and somehow he exceeded my already high expectations with his soaring voice well-translated mixed feelings. When I saw Flashdance on tour last year, Matthew Hydzik was a highlight, and I was excited to see him shine in “1 + 1 = 3” and “Coming Apart at the Seams”. Naturally, he knocked them out of the park.

However, as strong as the entire cast for Side Show is, ultimately, the success of the show rests on the talents of the two leading ladies playing “twins, who are conjoined”, based on the real-life Hilton sisters. Sadly, I never had the good fortune of seeing Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley as Daisy and Violet respectively, but I’m not sure there could be any better choice than Emily Padgett and Erin Davie to lead the way with this reimagined production of Side Show. You would never guess that they didn’t know each other before auditions. While I’d never had the pleasure of seeing Erin Davie in a leading role before Side Show, I was fortunate to see Emily Padgett when she was starring in Flashdance on tour, opposite Matthew. Needless to say, when the 11 o’clock number of Side Show, “I Will Never Leave You”, comes around, you won’t want to leave. Emily and Erin blend seamlessly, and when the song sadly does end, the Eisenhower Theater erupts with more applause than I’ve heard at that theatre for years. The moment truly is a showstopper in every sense of the word.

To bring this show to life, an immensely strong creative team has been assembled. The costumes by Paul Tazewell are to die for, and the staging was ideal. With several tweaks implemented between La Jolla Playhouse and The Kennedy Center, it’s clear that creative team wanted to get the show just right in hopes of a Broadway transfer.

One of the best things about this production is its heart. Not only does the show present a captivating story, backed by a strong score, but it also conveys the struggles and complications of life and love, compelling the audience to feel for the twins and those who knew them. It’s one of those shows that will stay with you, long after the “freaks” exit the stage. Unfortunately, this incredible production closes at The Kennedy Center July 13th, but I am already anticipating my eighth time seeing the show, which I’m hopeful will be on Broadway.

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