This Year’s Musical at The Media Theatre… ‘Side Show’

Jenna Pastuszek (left) makes her on the Media Theatre stage as Daisy Hilton, a conjoined twin who entertained on the carnival and burlesque circuit in the 1920s and ‘30s. Ashley Sweetman plays her twin, Violet Hilton.

Jenna Pastuszek (left) makes her on the Media Theatre stage as Daisy Hilton, a conjoined twin who entertained on the carnival and burlesque circuit in the 1920s and ‘30s. Ashley Sweetman plays her twin, Violet Hilton.

The Media Theatre has one musical per season which is not quite as mainstream as the other titles on its marquee, filling a particular void for those interested in passionate works by top notch writers and composers who have pieces in their oeuvre, which deserve to be seen but are rarely produced.

Artistic director Jesse Cline has chosen the Broadway musical Side Show as this season’s showcase for a little seen work.

Side Show, with a book and lyrics by Bill Russell and music by Henry Krieger, is based on the story of Daisy and Violet Hilton. The Hilton sisters were conjoined twins who entertained on the carnival and burlesque circuit in the 1920s and ‘30s. Managed poorly, the sisters eventually meet a talent scout and his budding musician pal who make a deal to showcase the two women on the Orpheum Circuit. Bursting with hope regarding their newfound fame, the ladies hearts are still unfulfilled, as they cannot escape the reputation of being “freaks.”

The musical is a powerful reminder that everyone is unique, acceptance should be celebrated, and no one is ever really alone.

In director Cline’s production, Daisy and Violet Hilton are played by Jenna Pastuszek and Ashley Sweetman. Pastuszek makes her debut on The Media Theatre stage, with Sweetman returning after appearing in Les Miserables, Ghost and Dogfight. Others in the cast include Bob Stineman and Derek Basthemer, both of Media’s recent Bridges of Madison County, as the two men who create a new career path for the twins.

Jim Conte, Jennie Eisenhower, Krystina Hawkinson, Brian Michael Henry, Ryan Lauer, Patrick Ludt, Kimberly Maxson, Grant Struble, Roger Ricker and Susan Wefel portray the “freaks” in the side show, with Darnell Abraham playing the pivotal role of Jake. Kelly Briggs is Sir, who manages the attractions. The Roustabouts are Rachel Hendrickson, Ronnie Keller and Denzel Thomas.

The show is on stage now through March 26. For tickets, call 610-891-0100 or visit mediatheatre.org.

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