The Washington Post

Does “Side Show” have what Broadway wants?

The talk in recent days about a possible move to Broadway of the Kennedy Center’s “Side Show” is gratifying and exciting. But it also has to give pause to anyone who loves this terrific production, directed by Bill Condon. The question simply must be posed: Given its dismal commercial pedigree,  does this complex, deeply affecting musical stand a chance in a marketplace driven more than ever before by brand name properties and hit-seeking tourists?

Discussions over the last week with people involved or familiar with some of the negotiations over the show indicate the commercial producer attached to the production, Darren Bagert, has an eye on Broadway’s highly coveted St. James Theatre, where the critically lambasted (and, in the theater industry, deeply disliked) “Bullets Over Broadway” is sputtering. In the latest weekly figures compiled by the trade group the Broadway League, Woody Allen’s show, directed by Susan Stroman, sold only 51 percent of its seats.

No one involved in “Side Show” is talking for the record, but the production has retained a New York press agent; the New York Times posted a short piece about the potential transfer on Thursday. Some with knowledge of the show’s circumstances say a transfer would have to occur sooner rather than later, partly because Condon has film commitments.

In a just world, Henry Krieger and Bill Russell’s revamped musical, the story of the private and show business lives of real-life Siamese twins Violet and Daisy Hilton, would find a secure foothold in the fall season on Broadway. It should be remembered, however, that despite excellent reviews and a small, enthusiastic following among musical-theater lovers, the original 1997 version, directed by Robert Longbottom, tanked on Broadway after only 91 performances. And this was at a time when tourists were not quite the dominant economic force they are today on Broadway, where they now buy 2 out of every 3 tickets.

Perhaps, though, the estimable Broadway successes of subsequent offbeat musicals like “Spring Awakening” and “Next to Normal” mean that there is still a slot or two for a sharp, thinking-person’s musical. One can only hope that if Bagert and his co-producers move forward, they augment “Side Show’s” superb cast with a truly stellar marketing whiz.



At Kennedy Center, ‘Side Show’ takes another turn around the midway

 ‘Side Show': A searing, soaring musical is reborn at the Kennedy Center

 For Kennedy Center’s ‘Side Show,’ two troupers are joined at the hip

More entertainment news

Peter Marks joined the Washington Post as its chief theater critic in 2002. Prior to that he worked for nine years at the New York Times, on the culture, metropolitan and national desks, and spent about four years as its off-Broadway drama critic.



Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Show Comments
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Your Three. Videos curated for you.
Play Videos
How to make Sean Brock's 'Heritage' cornbread
New limbs for Pakistani soldiers
The signature dish of Charleston, S.C.
Play Videos
Why seasonal allergies make you miserable
John Lewis, 'Marv the Barb' and the politics of barber shops
What you need to know about filming the police
Play Videos
The Post taste tests Pizza Hut's new hot dog pizza
5 tips for using your thermostat
Michael Bolton's cinematic serenade to Detroit
Play Videos
Full disclosure: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, 1 ghoul
Pandas, from birth to milk to mom
The signature drink of New Orleans
Next Story
Ron Charles · July 11, 2014

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.