On January 19, 2013, the new Utah Repertory Theater Company made its theatrical premiere by presenting the musical Side Show at the Echo Theater in Provo, Utah. Founder Johnny Hebda started the group (previously known as Utah Musical Theater Company) with the goal of bringing lesser-known shows to Utah. Their website describes the new company as, “Utah’s newest semi-professional theater dedicated to presenting high-caliber productions rarely seen in Utah, including premieres, musicals, Pulitzer prize-winning dramas and comedies.”
Side Show, by Bill Russell (book and lyrics) and Henry Krieger (music), certainly fits the bill since it has never before been performed in Utah. The musical tells the unique story of Daisy and Violet Hilton, conjoined twins who performed in side shows and eventually Vaudeville in the 1930’s. The show has a compelling story and explores poignant issues, but presents some obvious challenges in production with its cast of “freaks.” Perhaps this is one of the reasons it is so rarely performed.
Director Johnny Hebda put together an interesting cast with both professional and amateur actors in ages ranging from middle school to ages-that-shall-not-be-named. In spite of the wide variety of actors, the cast was obviously a tight-knit group who had worked together to develop authentic relationships that were apparent on stage.