Theater: Unshocking 'Side Show,' Exhausting 'Tamburlaine'

November 18, 2014 7:43 AM

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The story of the Hilton twins is a British horror story -- not because they were born as conjoined twins, but because of how cruelly the world treated them, from the mother who sold them to the midwife who bought them to the many people who abused and used them throughout their lives. Just reading their entry on Wikipedia is depressing, right down to the sad, sad finale. Surely a less obvious idea for a Broadway musical has never existed. Yet Side Show in 1997 was a Broadway baby's delight, with its cult status after closing in about eleven weeks to song after song that celebrates the freaks, the outsiders, the people who are scorned but want or need or do believe they are special and talented and unique. It powered the careers of Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner. And now it's back.

Oscar-winning director Bill Condon is making his Broadway debut with this revival that received acclaim out of town. One can understand the appeal: it has a pretty solid score that's akin to a happier Wicked, with two sisters who get to set off vocal fireworks in song after song where they establish...

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