20-Day Countdown! The Top 20 Tony Performances of My Lifetime: #9: SIDE SHOW, 1998

Nine days until the Tony Awards! We are at #9 on my 20-day Countdown of the Top 20 Tony Performances of My Lifetime.

When my two girls, Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley come out onto the Tony stage as conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton, there is so much fierce intensity in the air that it just ripples through you like an electrical current.  Their show had been canceled, but the show had made these two women Broadway's darlings, and this performance should let you know why.

The show is Side Show, sitting easily, easily, and evermore and always in my top ten favorite musicals of all time, it might be the closest to a flawless show I could ever imagine.  Not a wasted note, not a wasted breath.  The music is fabulous, the orchestrations are brilliant, the costumes, set, design, characters, story ... everything ... flawless.  And the best part of it all?  The casting was utter perfection, putting five of my favorite Broadway actors of all time: Ripley, Skinner, Jeff McCarthy, Hugh Panaro, and Norm Lewis (in his tremendous turn as Jake, the hunchback!), into the headlining roles.  Perfection.

The story of Side Show is a story of survival, heartbreak, and love against all odds.  Siamese twins Daisy and Violet Hilton are taken from the Side Show/freak show and put into the Vaudeville limelight by two suave men who walk the line between trying to make a buck and honestly, innocently, fiercely feeling intense human emotions for the girls.  A story of naiveté blossoms into an adventure of the self, of what's important, of unfathomable loyalty in the midst of loneliness; and if your heart doesn't burst into a flood of emotion you can no longer hide, then you don't have a heart to be broken.

The show was a risk right from the beginning, with expensive sets and a totally original story that wasn't based on anything audiences might have already been familiar with, and it ran for less than two and a half months.  Despite closing well before the Tonys were even announced, the show was still nominated for four, and Skinner and Ripley performed in front of a stark curtain that juxtaposed the glitz of the show and spun an air of sadness over the already-kinda-sad song.  Because the two girls are Siamese twins in the show, they have the same amount of stage time, and thus this was the first and only time two actresses were co-nominated for Best Actress in a Musical as a team, meaning if they had won, they would have both won together.  Sadly, they didn't win, but at least we have this to remember them by:

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