Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Two Part Harmony, Part One

So that didn’t take long: my review of “Side Show” is in today’s Style (thanks Mr. Editor Man!) I'll ramble a bit more about the show below, though I may not have time right now to lay out every little thing I could say about this show. So this’ll probably only be the first installment. Just giving you fair warning...

To reiterate what I said in my review: Angie and Robyn are knock-outs and I loved them in this show. I had heard “I Will Never Leave You” before but I didn’t really, you know, hear it until Angie and Robyn belted it out. And as simple and – let’s face it, trite – as the lyrics are to “Who Will Love Me As I Am?” I was seriously choked up at the end of the second act (oops -- I meant, first act. Sorry.).

And this points to my essential conflict with the show: the clichés that it is filled with alternately make up its best and worst parts. These two big power ballads are awesome, but even their titles indicate how they resemble about a half-dozen other songs in the Broadway songbook. Add in “Overnight Sensation” and it’s a perfect trifecta of a musical’s typical song types: “pining for a lover who understands me” ballad, “on the way to success” ditty, “assertion of never-ending bond or friendship” climax. There’s an irony in this to me since the Mill’s premier last season (U-town) skewered these kinds of musical clichés.

For the sake of balance, I’ll mention one thing that I thought the show does quite well. There’s no getting away – particularly in a love story – from the prurient aspect of the life of conjoined twins. The whole “Tunnel of Love” setup was an excellent way to handle this, being both euphemistic in a way but clear enough to anyone over 12 years old. And Mr. Width did a great job staging this, I think, with each character involved isolated and coming to their own realization about how fundamentally their perceptions were changing. Nicely done.

The day after I saw the show someone asked me about the physical aspects of staging a story about twins. It’s true, Robyn and Angie don’t look much alike, even when outfitted the same. Their coloring is different, they’re different heights, some of their individual features are dramatically different. I can see where this will be a problem for some people and frankly I thought it was going to be one for me. In the end, I wasn’t bothered much at all by it. Two things helped me with this: pictures of the actual Hilton sisters show that they were visibly distinct in some ways and also the show sets them up as being strikingly different personalities so their different looks didn’t make me suspend my disbelief any less. Sure, it would have been an interesting plus if the leads were as similar looking as Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley but if that would have meant sacrificing some of the vocal and dramatic power of the two actresses chosen, well, I don’t think it would have been worth it.

I will say though that I kind of wish that we had never seen the twins separated except in the dream sequences. When the show starts with them sitting separately, it was kind of a “Huh?” moment for me.

Tomorrow (or maybe the next day) I’ll try to put out more on the supporting cast, technical elements, and other random stuff. But now – to bed!


Angelika HausFrauSki said...

I have to say that I don't think of "Who Will Love Me As I Am" as a pining-for-a-lover-who-understands-me ballad, though some elements of the staging may suggest that. It's really a song about coming to terms with who you are and accepting that being you might mean being alone.

I also think the cliches are there to lull you into a false sense of security to make you think you're watching a normal musical about normal people, only to be reminded harshly in the Todd Browning scene that we are, indeed, still freaks.

As for us being separated in the beginning, that choice is scripted and is part of the "here are some players about to tell you a story" opening. It is written to be bookended with us separating again at the end, but we all agreed that it was terribly anticlimactic to end that way. Also, Robyn and I can't bear to be separated at the end of the show. :)

I'm glad that you enjoyed it overall...

Thespis' Little Helper said...

Ms. Angelika,

I'll preface by saying it's your character, so your choice.

"Who Will Love Me As I Am"

The repeated "Who will love me"/"Who could love me" throughout the song seems to be nothing more than searching for a lover. Which is not to diminish the song at all. I love the song (and look forward to hearing Robyn and you sing it, after having sang it with Robyn and Kim Jones-Clark and Matt Beyer at the Equality Virginia benefit last year...this year's is coming up in October...just a bit of a plug).

I really don't get anything of accepting being alone. I've never seen the whole show (just parts of a bootleg recording of the Broadway production) so I can't speak to entire character arc, but that girl is lookin' for her man in that song or at least expressing their hope of finding someone.

Anyway...opinions are like ---. Everyone has one and everyone things everyone else's stinks. So it's just that.

(Again, haven't having seen it, but) it does seem odd to be so married to one stage direction just 'cuz the orginal stage manager wrote that piece of blocking in, but not the ending stage direction which might make the first one work (since it seems not to have).

The piece itself (not referring to the production) from what I know of it (primarily just the soundtrack) I think of as brilliantly problematic, as many of my favorite musicals are.

Break legs! Sang your tails off! See you soon!

Angelika HausFrauSki said...

I don't think "Who will love me as I am" is a question asked by those who love themselves. I think compartmentalizing the sentiment within the boundaries of romantic love is doing it an injustice.

But this just could be my perspective as an actor, and I will concede that.