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Music Theater Season Opens with a ‘Side Show’

Side Show promo pic

Oklahoma City University will open its 67th consecutive season of opera and music theater with the Broadway musical “Side Show,” inspired by the true-life story of conjoined twins on the vaudeville and burlesque circuit of the 1920s and ’30s. Productions will be presented at 8 p.m. Sept. 28 and 29, with a 3 p.m. Sept. 30 matinee, in the Kirkpatrick Performing Arts Center, 2501 N. Blackwelder Ave.

Tickets are available online at okcu.edu/tickets or by calling 405-208-5227.

Featuring a cast of 30 and a 19-piece orchestra, “Side Show” tells the bittersweet story of sisters Daisy and Violet Hilton, joined at the hip but chasing separate dreams.

“The show invites us to do much more than come look at the freaks, as the electrifying opening number beckons,” noted arts critic Charles Isherwood. “This beautiful and wrenching musical…asks us to step inside their skins and feel what it’s like to be celebrated one moment, rejected the next, and to have the strange consolation of a companion who shares it all: the pain, the joy, the hope, the frustration.”

David Herendeen, director of Opera and Musical Theater at OCU, said he finds important societal lessons in the script.

“The message of the musical is, ironically, not one of difference, but of similarity: we are all freaks,” Herendeen said. “It is also one of exploitation of those who are less fortunate. I’ve always been fascinated with side shows and sideshow ‘freaks.’ But the thing that impacted me the most when I was young was how they simply talk to us. Their voices weren’t any different from mine and they told their story, their background of how they realized the way they were was different from others.”

With music by Grammy-winner Henry Krieger — who also composed the score to “Dreamgirls” — and book and lyrics from Bill Russell, “Side Show” was nominated for four Tony Awards in 1998. Its recent revival at the Kennedy Center won the 2014 Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Musical.

OCU’s Opera and Music Theater Company, the world’s oldest collegiate-based opera and music theater company, has won six National Opera Association awards in the past five years. Its presentation of “Side Show” opens a six-show, 18-performance season exploring the search for love and belonging.

Admission to mainstage productions are $14-28; admission to spotlight productions are $12. Parking is free.

“This seasons adds so much to Oklahoma City’s ever-expanding arts scene,” said Mark Parker, dean of the Bass School of Music. “The talent on our stage — and creative teams behind the scenes — continues to win recognition for artistic innovation and outstanding performances. We have a wonderful opportunity to see performers excel here before they launch their career on the world stage after graduation.”

OCU’s season continues Nov. 2-4 with “Little Women,” a 21st century chamber musical adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel. The fall mainstage opera is “Susannah,” Carlisle Floyd’s gripping 1955 work set in Tennessee and inspired by the Biblical tale of Susanna and the Elders.

Spring productions begin Feb. 22-24 with Jules Massenet’s 1899 French rendition of the Cinderella tale “Cendrillon,” which made its Metropolitan Opera debut this year.

>span class="None">Pietro Mascagni’s operatic comedy “L’Amico Fritz” (1891). The year’s grand finale will be the Tony Award-winning romantic musical comedy “Crazy for You” (1992), inspired by George and Ira Gershwin’s 1930 classic “Girl Crazy.”

Opening night dinners will be held in the atrium of the Bass Music Center for Friday mainstage productions: “Side Show” Sept. 28; “Susannah” Nov. 16; “Cendrillon” Feb. 22; and “Crazy for You” April 12. Tickets to the dinners are sold separate.

The galas — hosted by OCU President Martha Burger, Parker and Herendeen — feature a buffet dinner themed to the evening's production and musical entertainment by Bass School musicians.

The Wanda L. Bass School of Music hosts more than 250 events each year. Its alumni include “Classical Gas” composer Mason Williams, Broadway veteran Ron Raines, Grammy-winning operatic soprano Leona Mitchell, and Tony Award winners Kristin Chenoweth and Kelli O’Hara.