Best musical - 2000
Unlike their previous efforts, which have blurred the boundaries that separate the disabled from the rest of society, the Physically Handicapped Amateur Musical Actor's League production of Side Show emphasized those differences to the point of transcending them. A magnificent theatrical achievement, PHAMALy's regional-premiere mounting of the Broadway musical conveyed the idea of abiding self-acceptance without glossing over a few uncomfortable moments -- like, say, the opening number's repeated chant, "Here come the freaks/Only pennies for peeks!" The book on PHAMALy has always been that they're just a bunch of well-meaning though talented folks in wheelchairs who deserve a properly sympathetic audience. In light of this production, though, that nugget of wisdom seems soft-centered. For this troupe, as for the characters in Bill Russell and Henry Krieger's songfest, "Anything's possible -- when everything's right."