Theatre UCF is bringing the circus to life in the musical Side Show, scheduled to run Thursday, Oct. 25, through Sunday, Nov. 4.

The musical, written in 1997 by Henry Krieger (music) and Bill Russell (book and lyrics), is based on the real story of conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton. The sisters were famous vaudeville performers in the 1930s, having been discovered as a circus act. The sisters struggle with balancing fame, love, and their individual—and often opposing—desires.

Side Show is about relationships and finding ‘family’, whoever that may be,” said director Earl D. Weaver. “Everyone feels like a freak during some part of their life. Where do the outcasts of society find a place of support?”

The music, Weaver said, is a pop score with vaudeville numbers blended in. “It’s extremely difficult material for students. You have to have the right cast in order to present it, particularly with the female leads.”

The Theatre UCF costume shop has been in overdrive preparing for the production. The musical has thirty-two cast members, many of whom will be adorned in elaborate costumes. The costumes are designed by Theatre faculty member Huaixaing Tan and include costumes such as a reptile man, Dolly Dimples, a cannibal, a sheik and harem girls, and a tattooed geek.

“We started working on these costumes the first week of classes,” said Theatre UCF costume shop manager Dan Jones. “There are thirty-six custom builds and almost all of them are one-of-a kind. That is nearly triple the number we usually produce.” There are about 20 students in total working on the costumes, and six or seven working on the costumes at any point in time during the day.

Deirdre Manning and Catie Pires-Fernandes, the actors performing the roles of Violet and Daisy Hilton, have nine costume changes and three wigs changes during the performance. One of the changes is fewer than 20 seconds.

All of the costumes will be exciting, said Jones, but there is one costume that the twins wear that will be show-stopping; it is designed to make the twins look like a bird.

The attachment of the actors playing the conjoined twins is perceived rather than physical. “We start off the show walking in from opposite sides of the stage,” says Manning. “That allows the audience to not be looking for the theatre magic that is keeping us together, and accept that, yes, we are two people who are obviously not conjoined twins.”

“In early rehearsals Catie and I tied ourselves together at the hips and rehearsed in front of mirrors so we could get used to shifting our weight. On breaks, though, we could untie ourselves. Violet and Daisy never got to do that. It really changes your view of the characters.”

Theatre UCF is on the UCF campus near the intersection of University Boulevard and Alafaya Trail in east Orlando. Performances begin at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, and at 2 p.m. Sundays.

To purchase tickets or for ticket information call the box office at 407-823-1500. Standard tickets are $20 ($18 for seniors; $10 for students) and group rates are available. It is recommended to purchase tickets in advance, available through the Theatre UCF box office. UCF offers accommodations to make the theatre more accessible to patrons with disabilities; for assistance, call the box office in advance.

Production at a glance:

Side Show

Book and lyrics by Bill Russell; Music by Henry Krieger

Directed by Earl D. Weaver

Oct. 25, 26, 27, Nov. 1, 2, 3 at 8 p.m.

Oct. 28, Nov. 4 at 2 p.m.

Main Stage Theatre

Price: Standard $20, Senior $18, Student $10; Group discounts available


Address: 4000 Central Florida Blvd., Orlando FL 32816

Box Office Phone: 407-823-1500

Box Office Hours: Monday through Friday: noon to 6 p.m. and 2 hours before performances