Dancing For Their Lives

[F]or their special 40th anniversary reunion weekend, Ryerson Theatre Alumni enjoyed a social, cocktail party, brunch, and the fourth-year acting classes’ production of the 1964 play Marathon 33, directed by Ivica Boban.

Marathon 33, written by June Havoc, offers social commentary on issues relevant to today’s society. The play focuses on ideas like recession, economic struggle, and the treatment of humans as a whole.

The play follows the story of a series of dancers fighting to be the last ones standing, in a literal “dance marathon.”

In a fashion similar to “A Chorus Line,” each contestant has their own deep and moving story as to why they are choosing to partake in the exhausting, and at many times, humiliating marathon.

The marathon begins with a medley of well-known songs, starting with ABBA and concluding with a lovely rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” delivered by Karen Slater as marathon dancer “Sugar Hips” Johnson.

This particular number reoccurs in the show, reflecting the progression of “Sugar Hips” Johnson. By the end of the production, the character can no longer put herself through the grueling marathon. Slater’s performance is heartwarming, her voice light and beautiful in “Fly Me to the Moon.”

All marathon contestants are well-developed characters whose exhaustion is well portrayed by the actors. However, in a group of 22 pairs of dancers, certain people steal the spotlight.

The scene-stealer is definitely Madeleine Jullian’s Flo Marconi – the confident girl obsessed with her own body, whose mother told her “never stop dancing.”

As if Julian’s dancing is not stellar to begin with, the girl is graceful and sultry as she – no exaggerations – dances around other contestants, and in roller skates to boot.

Julian’s delivery and impersonation of Flo in a beautiful monologue is divine.

Scene-stealer Harveen Sandhu, provides comical relief in the serious and sometimes heart wrenching play. The actress played roles ranging from a foreign contestant, the head of an angry mothers group, and – my personal favourite – to Melba Marbel, a heavily under the influence singer.

My favourite moment of Sandhu’s is definitely her competing to sing Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” opposite the stunning Rae Wilson played by Kirsten Harvey.

The red haired bombshell Kira Guloien blew my mind as Victoria Thomas, a struggling actress trying to make sense of her life and career. Although a character seen in most movies and TV shows, Guloien manages to make her portrayal of a cliché character original and heartwarming.

There was truly not a weak link in the cast; the diverse characters and skills of the actors portraying them comprised a stellar show.

Effective lighting, simplistic and fun costuming, and sweet and short music numbers made for a very enjoyable show. I cannot wait until the next Ryerson production I see. I look forward to seeing these shows, actors and actresses on an even bigger stage one day, because with their talent that is where they are all headed – the great white way.

Brittany Goldfield Rodrigues, Journalism ’15