Monday, February 4, 2013

Slow Burn Theatre Company: Side Show (reviews)

Slow Burn Theatre Company opened its production of Side Show at the West Boca Performing Arts Theater on February 1, 2013.
Based on the true story of Siamese twins Violet and Daisy Hilton who became stars during the Depression, Side Show is a moving portrait of two women joined at the hip whose extraordinary bond brings them fame but denies them love. Nominated for four Tony awards, the show follows their progression from England to America, around the vaudeville circuit and to Hollywood on the eve of their appearance in the 1932 movie Freaks.
Patrick Fitzwater directed a cast that inlcluded Kaela Antolino, Courtney Poston, Matthew Korinko, Rick Peña, Jerel Brown, Conor Walton, Karen Chandler, Krissi Johnson, Lisa Kerstin Braun, Sabrina Lynn Gore, Alisha Todd, Justin Schneyer, Ben Solmor, Dan Carter, Michael Mena, Bruno and Faria.

Bill Hirschman reviewed for Florida Theater On Stage:
There is more passion pouring off the stage in Slow Burn Theatre Company’s thrilling Side Show than in ten other musicals we’ve seen in the past year put together... a poignant, but very dark tale skillfully delivered, Side Show is a powerful example of what the modern musical can be.
Far from being a bizarre exploitation worthy of a tabloid, composer Henry Kreiger (Dreamgirls) and bookwriter/lyricist Bill Russell have created a heart-breaking depiction of how every human being searches for love – sometimes in vain.
... this choice by co-founders Korinko and director/choreographer Patrick Fitzwater is downright courageous. It’s a title that only theater geeks have heard of and even fewer have actually seen because its Broadway run in 1997 didn’t last three months. And yet the opening night crowd was once again larger than previous ones. Slow Burn, like the late Florida Stage, is becoming a brand name for dependable work independent of whether anyone is familiar with the actual show.
This particular cast is blessed with vibrant soul-stirring voices, but several shows elsewhere this season can boast voices as impressive. The troupe’s virtue is a passionate commitment to acting through the music, exuding heartbreak and hope without overplaying the angst.
Among the high spots are duets by the sisters... These anthems of soaring melody lines and harmonies are carried to the rafters by Antolino and Poston like intertwining streams of silver liquid.
Equally mesmerizing is Korinko’s anguished solo “Private Conversation” in which Terry reveals that his pragmatic exterior is protective armor against feelings for Daisy that he is certain he cannot fulfill... Peña’s clarion voice struts through the vaudeville song and dance One Plus One Equals Three, which belies his growing concern that he cannot follow through on his proposal. Walton purloins the spotlight anytime his side show barker slithers across the stage with a muscular voice marinated in snideness. Even the ensemble is stronger than you find in many shows.
Fitzwater’s work, once again, is so smooth that almost no one will recognize the craft involved.  It’s easier to appreciate his eclectic choreography. With his leading ladies sitting still through much of the first act, he keeps his ensemble circling the twins. But once the women begin performing, Fitzwater finds modest but ingenious dance steps for them to do without seeming like contestants in a three-legged race.

How Slow Burn creates its evocative production values on such a tiny budget is baffling. Peña’s costumes range from the drab print dresses to tattered side show attire to sparkling Follies outfits. Ian T. Almeida’s set of canvas tent drapery and weather-beaten wooden slats are later covered (but never completely) by more elegant appointments of silken swaths. But the real triumph is Lance Blank’s artful lighting design that not only changes from scene to scene to create a different sense of place, but morphs with the emotional temperature changes within every scene.
...we’ve said it before: Every other musical theater producing house in Florida that prizes Carbonell Awards should be grateful that Slow Burn is so admirably cautious in its business plan that it doesn’t run enough performances to qualify for consideration. Because, frankly, they would blow most shows out of the water. Their productions like Side Show are a triumph of talent, intelligence and commitment.
Slow Burn Theatre Company presents Side Show at the West Boca Performing Arts Theater through February 10, 2013.

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