When I was invited to see the wonderful new musical Broadway revival of SIDE SHOW which dazzles under the masterful hands of director Bill Condon, with music by Bill Russell and Henry Krieger, I recevied an unexpected treat— that chill that goes through the body when you see a new talent that has the “it” factor.
You know the “it” factor. It’s that unseen yet powerful energy that sets someone apart.
Billed around the true story of people with “unusual” abilities, this story focuses on the real life of conjoined twins twins Daisy and Violet Hilton— Emily Padgett and Erin Davie —and their search for love and fame.
In the first act, in walks the actor David St. Louis, who plays Jake who, like the conjoined twins, worked in the side show as “freaks.”
In the opening sequence the character Jake is shackled and billed as a “wild man”and using his color and race as a card of horror and fear, he ran among roaring, biting and causing a fitful scene.
That was the show. Curtains down and the patrons gone, the loving Jake is the protect of the fragile twins and has a soft spot for Violet, who also shares the same warm feeling.
Violet never allows herself to love Jake because during that era, to be married to a Black woman would have made her more of a target, a fate that she would not venture.
I Caught Up, Briefly, With David St. James Between Matinees Of SIDE SHOW And Here Is What He Had To Share:
MyNewYorkeye: David, You Have “It.” How Long Have You Been Mastering Your Craft?
David St. Louis: Thank you for your kind words. Well, I was a voice major at Oberlin Conservatory but I decided I wanted more from the stage. I decided to study acting at Howard and I found my love, my calling. Since, I could already sing, I focused in musical theater. I kept my nose to the grind and worked, landed TV work and when I left university, I had all of my union cards and a special thing, as well, which is a Helen Hayes award.
myNewYorkeye: Your no stranger to Broadway, new to me but you’ve been in RENT and a few others. What was your favorite production?
David St. Louis: Favorite? This one definitely (SIDE SHOW) and the New York production of HARLEM SONG.
myNewYorkeye: Your singing voice is deep and rich but your speaking voice, well, it’s not the same (laughing).
David St. Louis: (affecting a deeper tone) “No? It’s not the same?” My voice is a big tricky because most composers write for tenor. I love when people work against that idea.
myNewYorkeye: I was very uncomfortable about how the character, Jake, is first seen on stage. A black man, in chains and being called such despicable things. OMG.
David St. Louis: I understand but you must remember the year these events occurred and pay mind to the historical accuracy. What I enjoy most about my character is that’s he’s a bridge to the very “weird” world for the audience. He has no physical affliction, so, in that way I become their respersentatve in the show.
myNewYorkeye: Your right. I found myself always looking for Jake to explain it me! What do you love about the magic of being in theater? I was impressed by the costumes and the lighting!
David St. Louis: The crew is exceptional but the costumes are a neat trick. It’s not your ordinary costume rack show. It is the result of a truly imaginative team. The music is good too!
myNewYorkeye: In closing, what is it about NYC and Broadway that gives you that extra “kick?"
David St. Louis: This is a city that crackles with vitality. You know, I like the hub going on in the lobby and outside the theater. That’s become a part of my ritual but each show is so different for me. That’s what makes being in NYC so special, it’s always changing.