'Side Show' explores life of conjoined twins

  • Jessica Means and Kristin Irvin will tell the story of the famous Vaudevillian/Hollywood Siamese twins Daisy and Violet Hilton in the musical "Side Show," which runs March 3-11 at Cutting Hall in Palatine.

    Jessica Means and Kristin Irvin will tell the story of the famous Vaudevillian/Hollywood Siamese twins Daisy and Violet Hilton in the musical "Side Show," which runs March 3-11 at Cutting Hall in Palatine. Courtesy of Cristianna Formeller

Posted2/28/2018 12:46 PM

LZP Productions brings the musical "Side Show" by Russell, Krieger, and Condon to Palatine's historic Cutting Hall Performing Arts Center, 150 E. Wood St., Palatine. Performances are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays, March 3-11.

Advance tickets are $20 for adults, $17 for students and seniors and can be purchased in advance; tickets purchased at the door will be $2-$3 additional. Visit www.cuttinghall.org or call (847) 202-5222.


Based on the true story of conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton, who became stars during the Depression, the musical "Side Show" is a moving portrait of two women joined at the hip and their search for love and acceptance amid the spectacle of fame. The show follows their progression from side show to vaudeville and on to Hollywood.

Actors Kristin Irvin (Violet) and Jessica Means (Daisy) comment on their experiences with taking on these iconic and demanding roles:

Q. How are you attached during the performance?

Kristin Irvin. We are not actually physically connected in any way; it is all done by blocking. We spend a lot of time with our arms around each other's waists or holding hands to help with this, especially when walking or dancing.

Jessica Means. Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley, who originated the roles on Broadway, were not connected either. I read that once they were separated by a set piece during a performance and the entire audience gasped. I hope that doesn't happen to us.

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Q. What were some of the physical obstacles you met during the rehearsal process?

Irvin. It took a while to get used to being joined at the hip and having to synchronize all our movement. It's funny -- we actually found ourselves having sore muscles from walking and holding our bodies differently.

Learning choreography was especially interesting at first. In addition to learning steps, we had to focus on not disconnecting. It has gotten easier the longer we've been working together.

Q. What have you learned developing the characters of Violet and Daisy?

Irvin. It has certainly caused me to have more empathy for people who have lived this reality, or who have other differences that make one feel like a spectacle. It still blows my mind that Daisy and Violet lived this way for 68 years; they were truly incredible women.

It has also provided an incredibly unique acting challenge -- constantly having to be aware of someone else and how my movement and action affect her and how hers affect me. It really put it in perspective that that's how it was for Daisy and Violet every day and moment of their lives.


Q. What are the differences between the twins?

Means. Daisy is definitely the more dominant twin. She has lofty dreams of stardom and passionate love. Violet is more grounded. She wants a more traditional lifestyle. The reality is that it is impossible for both to achieve the dream; therefore, one sister will always have to step to the side for the other sister. To me, this is heartbreaking, but a beautiful and tragic sacrifice.

Q. What can we learn from the story of Daisy and Violet Hilton?

Means. We can learn to appreciate others and see beyond the surface. The girls wanted love and acceptance, but people were unable to see beyond the physical. There is so much more to an individual than their body; we need to take the time to look beyond the superficial and love others as they truly are.

Cast and crew

The cast includes Ken Preiss, Peter Rasey, Korey White, Laura Martino, Tyler Callahan, Cristianna Formeller, Josh Formeller, Scott Skiple, Natasha Laws, Monica Stark, Peter Buckley, and Alma Lumabas.

The show is led by directors Morra and Ken Preiss, with choreography by Peter Rasey. Christie Chiles Twillie is the music director and orchestra conductor.

Filling out the orchestra are Diane Hansen, John Franklin, Christie Chiles Twillie, Bill Kort, Kurt Henning, Les Olds, Mitzi LaRue and Norb Kosinski.

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