S.T.A.R.S. to perform the musical ‘Side Show’

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Black Hills native and successful playwright Bill Russell spends time at Stevens High School, mentoring students with the upcoming production of “Side Show.”

Russel wrote the script and lyrics of “Side Show,” working with composer Henry Krieger for music. The musical is based on the lives of Daisy and Violet Hilton, conjoined twins who became famous stage performers in the 1920s and 1930s.


Bill Russell at Stevens High School

Bill Russell at Stevens High School

Russel has worked as a successful playwright, lyricist and director, and says, “’Side Show’ is based on a true story of Daisy and Violet Hilton. They were the highest paid actors in the history of Vaudeville. They sang, they danced, they played musical instruments and they were conjoined at the base of the spine. But when they were teenagers they were making $5,000 a week at the height of the depression, of course they had no idea how money worked or how to spend it- they had never been in a store. And it did not ultimately end well for them, but our show is more about the height of their success.”

The musical opened on Broadway in 1997. Russell received a 1998 Tony nomination for “Side Show” for Best Book and shared a nomination with the composer for Best Score. The show was also nominated as Best Musical. 

Stevens Side Show Poster

Stevens “Side Show” Poster

Russel is bringing more than just his theater expertise, but inspiration and guidance to the students as they pursue their dreams.

Russell says, “It’s been great, the kids are so enthusiastic and they’re smart. It’s been very fun. One of the students asked me, ‘Well how did you get to where you are?’ And I said, ‘Well I was raised in Spearfish’ and she said ‘Oh you mean I can do this too!’ and I said ‘Of course you can!’ — it’s not about where you’re from, you know, really.”

Noah Westergaard, Stevens freshman, said, “He’s very helpful with everything. He’s brought a lot to the table and he’s really helpful with bringing his ideas from Broadway and all the shows he’s directed from London and all over the world.”

The Stevens Drama department will present the South Dakota premier of “Side Show” April 11th — 13th. Click here for more information about the musical. 

Russell will be back in the Hills this summer directing “Side Show” at the Black Hills Playhouse.

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