Marathon of Hope – The Musical – The Terry Fox Story

Terry Fox Musical Remembers and Raises Hope

You might think that Terry Fox’s story isn’t suitable material for a musical.  Or maybe you think the subject matter is too depressing. But strangely enough, this new Canadian musical making its debut at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse is actually uplifting.  We know the outcome – Terry doesn’t live to achieve his dream of running a marathon a day all the way across Canada.  But even knowing the terribly sad ending doesn’t destroy the hope we have for this determined young man.

It’s a heartwarming nostalgia trip back to the summer of 1980.  This musical takes us on the road with Terry and his Marathon of Hope.  We start his story as an eager young basketball player.  Life is good, until he gets into a car accident and his knee is injured.  After a few months of pain, he finally sees a doctor and gets his diagnosis – he has cancer in his knee and his leg will have to be amputated. When Terry is moved by seeing children in the cancer ward at the hospital, he decides to run across Canada to raise funds for cancer research.  He starts training on his prosthesis, building his strength until he can run a 26 mile marathon a day.  Against his doctor’s advice and his mother’s wishes, he and his best friend, Doug, start the journey in Newfoundland, Terry travelling 26 miles a day with his trademark hop-run, Doug following in the van donated by Ford. Marathon of Hope The Musical

The story is not sugar-coated for the musical theatre stage.  We get to know Terry, the bad along with good.  There are tense moments when he is not getting along with his best friend.  He shows his intense anger at interruptions to his journey.  And he loses his temper, responding with fury, when a reporter publishes, erroneously, that he is not running the distance but riding along in the van.

Nathan Carroll as Terry sings the score beautifully, particularly the haunting song Waiting for a Miracle.  He has the requisite curly hair and hop-running step well practiced to portray Terry. Alex Furber plays the loyal friend, Doug Alward, showing his frustration and anger, but also being there for Terry.  Charlotte Moore and Ralph Small give very realistic portrayals of parents Betty and Rolly Fox.

Opening night was especially poignant with some of the characters portrayed on stage actually sitting in the audience.  Representing the Fox family were Terry’s siblings Darrell and Judy, aptly portrayed by Greg Pember and Brooke Bauer.  Hockey great Darryl Sittler was also on hand.  Prior to the performance Sittler spoke about giving his All-Star jersey to Terry.  Tim Porter portrayed Sittler, Terry’s older brother Fred, and others showing his versatility in the various roles. Toronto Star reporter Leslie Scrivener was also at the opening night performance.  Credited with bringing attention to the Marathon of Hope, Scrivener was fittingly played by Jayme Armstrong.

This show is saved from being too sad, despite its discouraging story line, by some brilliant bits of comic relief.  Eddie Glen brightens the tale playing several different characters.  Greg Pember lives up to Darrell Fox’s reputation as the funny guy, bringing some laughs just when the journey was very tense.  Keith Savage plays a hilarious Quebec cop and Kira Guloien livens things up as Betty Gilbert, the Come-By-Chance woman who hosts a Newfoundland kitchen party for Terry. The entire ensemble works well together, playing multiple roles creating the feel of a very large cast, with frequent costume changes and multiple wigs.

It’s not often that set pieces get applause, but the opening night audience was in awe when the real Marathon of Hope van drove onto the stage.  The iconic vehicle has been fully restored.

Those of us who remember the Marathon of Hope will come to this new Canadian musical with a handful of Kleenexes at the ready.  And while the story can’t be told without the heart-wrenching facts, it does have an inspiring conclusion, reminding us of Terry’s legacy and the advances in cancer research that have been made in the 36 years since his marathon.

Marathon of Hope continues with eight shows a week until October 30 at St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, St. Jacobs. Tickets are available by calling Toll Free 1-855-372-9866 or Local Box Office 519-747-7788 or check www.draytonentertainment.com

Photo: Nathan Carroll as Terry Fox and Company in Marathon of Hope: The Musical.  Photo by Hilary Gauld Camilleri. 

Marathon of Hope – The Musical
Music and Lyrics by John Connolly
Book by Peter Colley
Directed by Alex Mustakas
Musical Direction by Michael Mulrooney
Choreographed by David Connolly
Performed by Nathan Carroll, Jayme Armstrong, Alex Furber, Eddie Glen, Charlotte Moore, Gregory Pember, Ralph Small, Curtis Sullivan et al.
Produced by Drayton Entertainment
St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, St. Jacobs
October 7 to 30, 2016
Reviewed by Mary Alderson

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