There is a local theater company in Harper’s Valley called Nearly Naked Theatre. They have very limited budgets and perform in a small black-box space adjacent to the Phoenix Art Museum. I am a fan.
I am a not a fan because I love everything they do. At least once I recall leaving at intermission. On other occasions I’ve wished I had. Their website describes them as; “Dedicated to Producing the Valley’s Most Challenging and Provocative Productions”. Syntax notwithstanding, it is true. I’m a fan because they do interesting, edgy productions of material that would not otherwise be performed here. Sometimes I like it, other times not, but I would almost always rather see an attempt at something challenging than, yet another, staging something safe and mainstream.
They are not best known for musicals but they mount one from time to time. The productions are usually of shows I know from cast recordings but have never seen performed. A couple of years ago they did Blood Brothers. Last season they did Spring Awakening. This weekend they open their production of Side Show.
As the name implies, Side Show is a musical about circus “freaks”. Apologies if the term is insensitive but that’s what they are called in the lyrics and book. And historically, that is what people like Daisy and Violet Hilton, the conjoined twins who are the central characters of the piece and on whose lives the show is based, were called. The show opened on Broadway in 1997 and ran only 91 performances. It received 4 Tony nominations including one nomination for Best Leading Actress in a Musical for the two actors who, together, played the twins.
I only know one person who actually saw the show during its Broadway run. He loved it. I received the cast recording as a Christmas gift that year and fell in love with the message of humanity I find in it. And tomorrow night at 7:30 MST I will finally get to see it performed.
On those rare occasions when anything from this show is performed it is most often the show’s final duet; “I Will Never Leave You”. It is a strong song. My favorite song, however is the Act I closer; “Who Will Love Me As I Am”. I can’t imagine a sentiment more human or universal than that.