It’s always a challenge to stage a show, which has not been commercially successful. But to take on the task of an infamous Broadway flop is a real gamble in a non-professional setting. And despite the fact that Side Show features some of the most acclaimed musical theatre female duets of all time, it’s never managed to really cut it amongst the smash-hit shows.
After two short runs on Broadway (originally in 1997 and when it was revived in 2014) and then a critically acclaimed run at Southwark Playhouse, the cult musical still has its issues.
The Bromley Players’ production, which is running at the Bob Hope Theatre in Eltham misses the mark by quite a long way.
The story follows the Hilton sisters, a pair of conjoined twins, who perform in a 1930s sideshow in Texas. They are kept as virtual prisoners by the ‘Master’ until, a couple of dandy vaudeville producers spot them and attempt to pluck them from obscurity.
And attempting the complex tale with a cast whose acting isn’t the strongest needs master direction even to get close to making it a relatable piece, which it doesn’t get in this instance.
There is none of the sexual tension between the various love interests, the heart aching disappoint at the world’s lack of acceptance or any chemistry between the performers indicating the bond of a close-knit sibling relationship.
Some of the singing is really good (Daisy and Violet do well), but without the acting-through-song to help portray the struggles of these characters, many of the really emotive standards just fall flat.
It’s in the big ensemble numbers where Bromley Players really shine and there were moments of fluidity in some of the company routines, but Side Show isn’t supposed to be all glitter and jazz hands. It’s about the individual relationships and struggles, which need strong leads, directed well to draw an audience in and carry them along on the journey.
Like Urinetown before it, this was a bridge too far for this company and they would be better off heading back to doing musical comedy well rather than attempting to stage complicated cult classics and missing the boat.
Reviewed by Ophelia Cox