Identical twins get spotlight in York's 'Side Show'
Ashley and Nicole Dziurzynski thought they were close before.
They live together, they act together and they've done cheerleading together.
“The only time we would be separate is if we’re with our boyfriends or something, but even then, we’re still kind of together,” Nicole said.
The 21-year-old twin sisters from New Cumberland are playing the roles of conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton, who were two of the biggest vaudeville stars of the 1930s.
The musical, which premiered on Broadway in 1997 and was later revived in 2014, explores the relationship between the sisters and tells the true story of how they spent almost their entire lives being taken advantage of and exploited for money and entertainment.
From the moment the Dziurzynski sisters auditioned for the parts, they knew the roles were made for them. And so did their guest director.
Aaron Dalton, who has guest directed about five or six shows at the theater, said he started to get nervous when he realized how demanding the roles of the Hilton twins were. They have 16 songs and are on stage for 95 percent of the show.
“I thought, ‘Where was I going to find two actresses who can sing this physically demanding part, but who look enough alike that they could pass for twins on stage?’” Dalton said.
That’s when Ashley and Nicole walked in.
The twins were first introduced to the musical when they heard the song “I Will Never Leave You” in high school.
“We were in love with (that song),” Nicole said. “It said everything all from there … No one will ever come between us no matter who comes in our lives. It’s always going to be us ‘til the end.”
A few years later, they saw the revival production of “Side Show” on Broadway and have been singing along to the soundtrack ever since.
Even before day one of rehearsals, they knew the words to every song.
“It made it much easier on me as a director that I didn’t have to work with them as much because they already were these characters,” Dalton said.
Being twins gave the Dziurzynskis a stronger connection to the Hilton sisters and a better understanding of how to portray them from the beginning, Nicole said.
What took time was learning how to stay attached at the hip while moving around the stage. Nicole said the secret is a heavy duty magnet, which the twins wear in the pockets of their costumes.
But even after months of rehearsals spent connected at the hip, they’re still not sick of each other.
“We’ve done theater always together, but the fact that we’re literally side by side in (this musical) is our favorite part,” Nicole said.
And it shows.
Dalton said he’s been doing theater for close to 20 years, and he’s never been in a rehearsal process where the production staff is so moved by the performance they have tears in their eyes.
“The way our girls perform this part, they’re so exceptional that it will move you,” he said.
Hilton twin history
This month’s shows inside the intimate 110-seat Bon Ton Studio at The Belmont Theatre will be the first time the revival of “Side Show” has been performed in the York area. But it’s not the first time the Hilton twins will be on a local stage.
According to an old poster Dalton found online, the actual Hilton sisters performed at the York Theatre during a showing of their film “Chained for Life” on a Monday, March 23. The poster didn’t specify the year, but Dalton suspects it was in the mid to late ‘50s, when film started taking over the entertainment industry.
The Hilton sisters were never successful in making the transition from vaudeville to Hollywood, and they later died in poverty.
See a ‘Side Show’ exhibit
Before you head inside the theater, make time to check out the “Side Show” exhibit in the lobby.
Mark Kosh, owner of the Gettysburg Dime Museum, will display a souvenir pamphlet from one of the Hilton sisters’ previous Pennsylvania shows, a life-size replica of Jojo the Dog-Faced Boy – a popular side show performer from the 1800s, as well as some other "Side Show"-related items.
If you go
What: “Side Show”
When: 7:30 p.m. Aug. 12-13 and Aug. 18-2; 3 p.m. Aug. 14 and 21
Where: The Belmont Theatre, 27 S. Belmont St., York
Cost: $25 for adults, $23 for seniors, $20 for students and $12 for children 12 and under.
More info: Visit thebelmont.org.