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Twenty Fingers, Twenty Toes
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Twenty Fingers, Twenty Toes

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Twenty Fingers, Twenty Toes

The York Theatre Company
Musicals in Mufti
(Staged Concert Performances)
At
The York Theatre Company at
Saint Peter’s Citigroup Center
619 Lexington Avenue at 54th St
NY, NY
(York Theatre Company Website)

Book by Michael Dansicker & Bob Nigro
Music and Lyrics by Michael Dansicker
Arrangements by Michael Dansicker
With Jenna Coker, Paul Kandel, Beth McVey,
Mark Price, Alicia Sable, and James Stovall
Production Stage Manager: Alan Fox
Lighting Design: Ken Billington
Costume Coordinator: Rebecca Bernstein
Hair Coordinator: Gerry Leddy
Music Director: Lawrence Yurman
Director: Jay Binder
Press: Cohn Davis Associates



Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 16, 2004

Michael Dansicker premiered Twenty Fingers, Twenty Toes at the WPA Theater in 1989, where it played for a brief run, but to rave reviews by the New York Post and WNBC-TV. This rare and most charming work tells the tale of the lovely Hilton Sisters, Daisy and Violet, Siamese twins, who performed a vaudeville act around the globe, and eventually the US, singing and entertaining audiences with innocent and sometimes bawdy humor. They were born in England in 1908 to an unwed barmaid, who gave the babies up to her employer, Mary Hilton, a self-serving shrew, who trained the girls in song, dance, and musical instruments. Mrs. Hilton was known as Auntie and her husband as Sir. In the US, the real Hilton sisters performed with Harry Houdini, Sophie Tucker, and Bob Hope. However, the girls were poorly paid and severely exploited and abused. The courts awarded the sisters a sizeable reward in a court action against the cruel, adoptive parents. Twenty Fingers, Twenty Toes is loosely based and inspired by the life and plight of the Hilton sisters. (Assisted by Program Notes).

Jenna Coker as Daisy (originally Hanna) and Alicia Sable as Violet (originally Helen) were outstanding and extremely well matched. Keep in mind that throughout this two-act performance, both actors are joined by a large, colorful sash at the hips. They have look-alike wigs (first long brown curls and then short cute waves) and their dresses always matched in a soft pastel fabric. Both actors have powerful voices, and carried Bluebirds, Twenty Fingers, Twenty Toes (title song), and Cooperation with exuberance and charisma. As this is a “Staged Concert Performance”, all actors use unobtrusive books with lyrics and notes, and there was a vibrant and live trio - bass, piano, and percussion. It was obvious in post-performance discussion that both Ms. Coker and Ms. Sable have formed an off-stage friendship that allows the Siamese twin scenario to exude of emotional bonding and mutual admiration.

Beth McVey, as Auntie Verna, the adoptive mother, reeks of evil, devoid of pathos or pity. She is just mean. Auntie Verna flaunts her stolen wealth (a rags to riches tale, before our eyes, mink stole and hats as props, thanks to her hoarding of the girls’ onstage income), her “luck” to find the equally evil Sir (originally Myer Myers), and her craven greed and vicious abuse of her adopted daughters. Ms. McVey is a supremely talented actor, with a rousing voice and magnetic stage presence. Again, I kept forgetting that all actors were holding black binders with their lyrics and notes. These binders disappear from mind, as the actors seize their stage and work their way through Michael Dansicker’s (and Bob Nigro’s) well-conceived story and songs.

Paul Kandel as Sir, who actually appeared in the original 1989 production, was always in sync, in style, and in step with rapid or double-take humor and lyrics, such as the reprise of the title song, sung by Auntie and Sir. An incredible performance was the surprise introduction of James Stovall in Act II, as Bert/Bertha, a bisexual act in this veritable vaudeville scene. Bert/Bertha wears a suit, sports a gardenia over one ear, wears lipstick, and has one women’s glittery pump, as well as one men’s, shiny patent tie shoe. One side woman, one side man. He turns and spins mid-song, changing tone and gesture to match the gender of the moment. What a riot! Yet, Bert/Bertha was a warm, genuine, and finally courageous character, as were the Hilton sisters, while Auntie and Sir acted like the “freaks of vaudeville”. This central theme was interwoven throughout the production.

Mark Price, as several characters, such as the barker and the doctor, was just as witty and wonderful as were his five friends onstage. Michael Dansicker is to be congratulated with gusto for this tuneful, touching tale. According to announcements in advance and discussions post-performance, there was only a brief period of time to cast and rehearse this musical, and everyone involved was perfectly positioned and engagingly entertaining. Twenty Fingers, Twenty Toes was performed with energy, effervescence, and enthusiasm. When Daisy and Violet sang We’ll Always be Together, as a closing reprise, I did not want the show to end. It’s wonderful to experience such an upbeat and unusual musical in such a cozy, Off-Broadway space. I look forward to seeing Twenty Fingers, Twenty Toes in its next venue. Hopefully, the cast will remain intact. Kudos to Lawrence Yurman, Music Director, and to Jay Binder, Director. Kudos to Michael Dansicker for a big success.



Twenty Fingers, Twenty Toes!
Photo courtesy of Heller



Twenty Fingers, Twenty Toes!
Photo courtesy of Heller



Twenty Fingers, Twenty Toes!
Photo courtesy of Heller







For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net