Sep 6, 2018

[Theater] Side Show (Atlantis Theatrical Entertainment Group) Review

Early in the year we end up watching a lot of different plays as part of the regular theater season. Later in the year other groups tend to put on more musicals (or at least that's how it feels like to me) and thus we schedule some shows of interest accordingly.

Side Show was our first musical as part of our personal "musical season" at the tailend of 2018 and our first Atlantis show for the year as well. And this wasn't a musical we had heard much about before but it's hard to resist a "freak show" right? And so we went.

The show was quite surprising in tone and pretty creative in its costumes and make-up in order to give that full freak feel realness. But it was also a little confusing with a lot of different story beats, which felt like a bit of a waste of the excellent talent that they had gathered for the production.

And this is one major cast.

Synopsis: Side Show is a musical with book and lyrics by Bill Russell and music by Henry Krieger. The show was loosely based on the story of Daisy and Violet Hilton. The Manila staging was directed by Steve Conde and ran from 31 August to 23 September, 2018 at the Carlos P. Romulo Auditorium at the RCBC Plaza in Makati City.

The story is set in a traveling sideshow with Sir (Wency Cornejo) at its helm. But the stars of the show are Daisy (Gab Pangilinan) and Violet (Kayla Rivera) Hilton, who are conjoined twins who sing for audiences. And on one night their performance catches the attention of Terry Connor (Markki Stroem), who is hoping to find talent to bring back to the Orpheum Theater vaudeville.

But to prepare them for a proper vaudeville audition he has his friend and aspiring performer Buddy (David Ezra) to prepare the girls in secret without the knowledge of Sir. The rest of the sideshow performers have mixed opinions on whether the sisters should really go for this and risk leaving the relative safety of the group but others encourage them to keep going and pursue their dreams.

What I Liked: This cast is amazing and there are so many great performers involved. Markki Stroem is a bit of a theater regular, especially for Atlantis productions, and he has really grown as both an actor and a singer. But one of the standout singers is definitely the Dog Boy played by Timmy Pavino, who also performs a second role as Houdini. His mask is amazing and it conceals the talented singer whose voice just bursts out and fills the room. What an amazing set of pipes!

Similarly you can't help but pay attention to Arman Ferrer who plays Jake, the protective member of the group who rather dotes on the girls. We've seen him in a few shows like Maynila sa Mga Kuko ng Liwanag The Musical. Either he sings better in English or he's also grown as a performer over the years and he has such a deep and rich voice with a singing style that is distinct and contrasts with how the likes of Stroem and Ezra sing. And there are so many other notable vocal performances.

What Could Have Been Better: The performance was largely great but the story wasn't as strong. The way things progress from the sideshow to the Orpheus stage had a lot of bumpy moments and the way the whole play ended felt like lazy writing as if he didn't know how to end it and thus we just cut to a sort of "musical" ending that was vague and unfulfilling.

And this could be a minor point, but the ridiculous amount of multi-colored neon tape used to mark where prop pieces need to be positioned on stage were terribly distracting. There has to be a better way to manage that. I'm sure it was less of a problem for folks who sat in the orchestra but for anyone in the loge or balcony seats, the stage is mostly back with neon pink and green tape all over the place. And it's not even small pieces of tape but fairly long ones that form different corners and shapes and it nagged us all throughout the show.

TL;DR: Side Show is quite the entertaining production and you have to come see it for the talent gathered. The story isn't the greatest but the singing and dancing largely make up for that. And thus the show gets a good 3.5 freakish acts out of a possible 5.

PS - You will get minor American Horror Story: Freak Show feels but the story is different enough. Don't stress.

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