Robert Joy is having a joyful moment.
“In our 19 years together, Henry and I have never worked together until this production,” proclaims the 62-year-old actor.
Henry is Henry Krieger, the composer of Dreamgirls and of the revamped Side Show, playing through July 13 at the Kennedy Center Eisenhower Theater. “We’re always looking for opportunities to be in the same city, because we both travel quite a bit. For us to be working on the same project is a thrill.”
In the musical, based on real-life events, Joy portrays Sir, a carnival barker who serves as guardian to the sideshow’s star exhibit — Daisy and Violet Hilton, conjoined twins who went on, briefly, to fame and fortune in the early ’30s and eventually starred in Tod Browning’s landmark 1932 horror film, Freaks.
Joy was initially reluctant to watch the Browning film, but once he mustered the courage — streaming it on a laptop in his dressing room — he admits to being “changed by it.”
“It’s an amazing experience,” he says. “There is some bad acting in it and it is, on some levels, hilarious, it’s so bad. But the film as a vision is the kind of thing that changes you because it asks you the question ‘What it is to be a human being?’ Is there a point at which the individuality of these characters, or their deformities, or their challenges makes them less them human? Or does it make them more intensely human?’ It’s astounding, really, that movie.”