Jayson Kolbicz shows two sides of his artistry as both a performer and the makeup designer for Side Show, a rarely performed musical that invites Houstonians to “come look at the freaks” March 28–April 14 at Queensbury Theatre.
In the opening number, Kolbicz portrays the half-man/half-woman oddity in a Depression-era sideshow that featured Siamese twins Violet and Daisy Hilton.
“Literally, half of me is a dude and half of me is a drag queen,” says Kolbicz, who is openly gay. “I wear a corset and five-and-a-half-inch heels, and makeup that was inspired by RuPaul’s Drag Race. I’m like a cross between Valentina and Roxxxy Andrews, with a little bit of ‘brass doll’ thrown in there. It’s going to be a moment. It’s so fierce.”
Competing for the audience’s attention will be a number of other “exotic creatures” whose makeup Kolbicz created to capture what the musical’s composers, Bill Russell and Henry Krieger, called “God’s mistakes.” Among them are a bearded lady, a tattooed girl, and a lizard man.
“For some of them, we combined anomalies to give a performer double-freak attributes,” says Kolbicz. “For example, our ‘human pin-cushion’ is a ‘he’ in the script, but we put another spin on the character my making him gender fluid.”
Later in Side Show, Kolbicz plays the legendary escape artist Harry Houdini, and sings “All in the Mind” to the real-life Hilton twins, who are the focus of the musical that opened on Broadway in 1997 and ran for 96 performances. Its stars, Alice Ripley and Emily Skinner, were jointly nominated for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical.
At Queensbury, Violet and Daisy are portrayed by Teresa Zimmermann and Holland Vavra, respectively. The show follows the book of Side Show’s 2014 Broadway revival, which delves deeper than the original production into the backstory of the Hilton twins. “With the implementation of the twins’ relationship with Harry Houdini and their proposed separation surgery, the new book fleshes out characters and situations that endow the songs with more sophistication and truth,” according to press material.
“Houdini was the one light in the sisters’ lives,” says Kolbicz. “He was the good person in their life,” teaching them tricks to mentally escape their physical restrictions.
Kolbicz was born in Michigan and went to high school and college in Ohio. His stage career began in his sophomore year of high school, when he was cast in a community-theater production of Guys and Dolls. He came to Houston last summer to appear in a Latin-inspired reimagining of Guys and Dolls at Theatre Under The Stars (TUTS), followed in October by another TUTS appearance in The Wiz.
Last December, he was part of the hair and makeup team for Disney’s Beauty and the Beast at TUTS. “I was the guy who transformed Michael Burrell into his beastly look every night,” says Kolbicz, who was allowed just 58 seconds to get Burrell out of makeup and back onstage as the prince for the finale. “It was such a cool experience.”
Since graduating from Kent State University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in musical theater and moving to Conroe in 2014, Kolbicz has performed power ballads and duets in four stints aboard Royal Caribbean cruise ships. His showreel videos can be viewed on YouTube by searching “Jayson Kolbicz Showreel.”
What: Side Show
When: March 14 through April 14:
Where: 12777 Queensbury Ln, Houston, TX 77024