Bill Condon to Make Broadway Directorial Debut With 'Side Show'

Bill Condon
Bill Condon
 AP Images

Step right up. Following acclaimed tryout runs of his fully reimagined production of Side Show at La Jolla Playhouse and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Bill Condon is bringing it to Broadway.

The beloved cult musical set in the worlds of carnival, vaudeville and Hollywood in the 1920s and '30s will begin previews Oct. 28 at the St. James Theatre, with official opening set for Nov. 17. That theater is soon to be vacated when Bullets Over Broadway ends its unsuccessful run there Aug. 24.

The show marks a reunion of Condon — the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Gods and Monsters and a nominee for the script of best picture winner Chicago — with composer Henry Krieger, who also wrote the Motown-flavored score for Dreamgirls. Condon wrote and directed the screen version of that musical in 2009.

Side Show has a book and lyrics by Bill Russell, with additional material by Condon. Inspired by the true story of the Hilton Sisters, it centers on conjoined twins Daisy and Violet — the highest paid vaudeville performers of their day — and their search for love, acceptance and individual identity while navigating the glare of the showbiz spotlight.

Erin Davie and Emily Padgett will reprise the roles that earned them raves in the production's prior two engagements.

While the original 1997 Broadway production drew passionate admirers among theater critics and musical fans, its dark themes and freak-show setting proved a tough sell to mainstream audiences at the time, causing the show to close after a short run of just three months. However, it received Tony nominations for best musical, score, book and both of its original lead actresses, Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner.

Condon has undertaken a major overhaul of the material, including the removal of some songs and reordering of others, with entirely new book scenes. The production also is heavier on alluring razzle-dazzle than the original stripped-down staging.

Charles Isherwood, writing in The New York Times, called the Kennedy Center staging "powerfully affecting." Peter Marks in The Washington Post wrote, "Anyone not knocked out by this ravishing musical is hereby ordered to have their vital signs checked."

Producers on the Broadway run are Darren Bagert, Martin Massman, Jayne Baron Sherman, Joan Raffe & Jhett Tolentino, Kevin Niu, ShadowCatcher Entertainment, Catherine & Fred Adler, Jim Kierstead, Seaview Productions, Matthew Masten and Jujamcyn Theaters, in association with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and La Jolla Playhouse.

Complete cast and creative teams are to be announced.

Condon is currently filming Mr. Holmes, starring Ian McKellen and Laura Linney, about the retired Sherlock Holmes revisiting an unsolved case.

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