One has to wonder about the motives of a musical that opens with a number titled "Come Look at the Freaks," but Side Show's writers Bill Russell and Henry Krieger want you to do more than gawk; they want you to examine their heroines, conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, and learn from them.
Side Show, presented this weekend and next by American Theatre Company, is a 1997 Broadway musical based on the lives of two sisters who earned fame and fortune through their deformity.
Although it played fewer than 100 performances on Broadway, the show earned critical acclaim and has become something of a cult classic among musical connoisseurs, according to Ed Durnal, who directs it for ATC.
"American Theatre Company tries to do musicals -- not the old war horses, but things that are different," Durnal said. "This one has a powerful message of accepting people for who they are and not who we want them to be."
The musical follows Daisy and Violet's rise to fame in the 1920s and '30s. They were raised by an adoptive mother who immediately recognized the monetary value in exploiting their deformation.
But although the twins were joined at the hip and shared a circulation system, they otherwise operated as separate beings. They began their careers as sideshow "freaks," rose to fame on the vaudeville circuit and eventually made it big in Hollywood. At the height of their careers, they starred in Tod Browning's controversial (for its time) 1932 film, Freaks.
Privately, they struggled with issues of identity, romance and love, which is what the musical is about.
Durnal said its signature number, "Who Will Love Me As I Am?," pretty much sums the whole thing up.
The production is almost entirely sung, and although Krieger earned acclamation for his hit Dreamgirls, Durnal insists that his work for Side Show is even better.
And he's enlisted some proven singers to carry off the writers' demanding work. Cathy Rose-Bergenroth plays Daisy, and Heather Richetto-Rumley is Violet. Both have performed with ATC before.
Playing some of the twins' romantic interests are Freddie Tate as Jack, Ryan Devlin as Buddy Foster and D'mitri Sobol as Terry Connor.
Jeremy Stevens is the musical director, Starr Hardgrove designed the set and April Madden designed the costumes.
Side Show opens ATC's 40th season. Its producing artist director Kitty Roberts recently received a Governor's Arts Award for her work with the company.
Durnal said this season, which also includes A Christmas Carol and The Santaland Diaries in December, The Immigrant in March, and 12 Angry Men in May, purposely includes plays with an overall theme of social justice.
"ATC has always tried to do theatre which is relevant to social issues," Durnal said. "Over the years, ATC has done a lot of brand-new, off-Broadway and cutting-edge plays and has pioneered outreach into the school system and pioneered diversity in casting."
Side Show plays at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center's John H. Williams Theatre, 110 E. Second St., Oct. 23-24 and 30-31 at 8pm and Oct. 25 at 2pm. Tickets are $24-$30, with discounts for students, seniors and groups of 10 or more.
More information and tickets are available at www.tulsapac.com
This month's Tulsa Symphony Orchestra concert, Saturday, Oct. 24, will take audiences on an auditory tour of Italy. It is part of the city's charge to "Hear the World with Tulsa Symphony Orchestra" this season.
The concert, conducted by David Lockington, music director at the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra and of the Modesto Symphony, features works by Ottorino Respighi, Mendelssohn and Alessandro Marcello.
Respighi's Ancient Airs and Dances Suite No. 1 was inspired by his love of Italian masters Monteverdi, Verdi and Marcello.
Mendelssohn wrote his Symphony No. 4 in A Major, Op. 90, "Italian" after a tour of Europe from 1829 to 1831, where he wrote, "This is Italy! And now has begun what I have always thought... to be the supreme joy in life."
Marcello's Oboe Concert is one of his best-known works and is one of the most frequently performed oboe concertos in the standard repertoire. TSO's features principal oboist Lise Glaser.
Saturday's concert begins at 7:30pm in the Tulsa PAC's Chapman Music Hall. Tickets are $10-$65 and available at HYPERLINK "http://www.tulsapac.com"; www.tulsapac.com.
Heller Theatre this weekend presents another stirring drama in The Exonerated by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen. The play tells the true stories of six former death row prisoners who were released after their sentences were reversed.
The play examines their false accusations, wrongful convictions and eventual exonerations. It premiered in Los Angeles in 2002, moved to New York City after and is estimated to have been seen by more than 500,000 people at productions around the country.
Heller's cast includes Darrell Christopher, Liz Masters, Stephen Brown, Shrae Johnson, Ron Friedburg, Craig Walter, B.J. Johnson, Susan Dergoul, W. Bryan Thompson, Michael Remington and Kathern Shaine. George Romero directs, and Melissa Childs stage manages.
The play runs Oct. 23-24 and 29-31 at 8pm and Nov. 1 at 2pm at Heller's new theatre at Henthorne Park, 4825 S. Quaker. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for seniors and students. More information at www.hellertheatre.com. Call 746-5065 to make reservations.
On Monday, Oct. 26, Choregus Productions presents what has been called by New Yorker magazine "the world's reigning male chorus," Chanticleer.
The Grammy Award-winning chorus is in its 32nd season, and it has been lauded internationally for its vivid interpretations of vocal literature, from Renaissance to jazz, gospel to new music.
The 12-voice choir presents its season opener, "In Time Of... Songs of Love & Loss, War & Peace," at 7:30pm in Holland Hall's Walter Arts Center, 5666 E. 81st St..
The program includes works by Renaissance and contemporary composers, including Palestrina, Dufay, Ligeti, Bates and Gershwin.
Tickets and additional information are available at www.choregus.org.
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