Auditions: Saturday 11 January 2020 (recalls by invitation: Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 January).
“…forty five minutes every hour, dancing for your pleasure, how many hours can they go?”
Atlantic City, America, 1933, the Wall Street crash and subsequent Great Depression have sent unemployment and poverty rocketing to an all-time high. Against this backdrop, Dance Marathons have flourished. Part dance, part endurance contest, competitors dance for the lure of a large cash prize awarded to the couple who could dance for the longest. From those desperate for fame to those simply desperate for respite, the marathons provide an escape from reality and all its trappings.
“I’ve run Marathons from Catalina to Kalamazoo and never have I seen a dance floor filled with more confident couples, each certain they can outlast the other and claim the pot of gold worth $2000!"
Kander and Ebb’s Steel Pier centres around five of these couples, ‘a captivating assortment of depression era souls’, puppeteered by Master of Ceremonies Mick Hamilton. At the centre of this mix is Rita Rachine a seasoned Dance Marathon competitor, determined that this will be her last. When her partner fails to show she is matched with pilot Bill Kelley, and as the hours whirl on, realises all is not as it seems. Other couples include fame hungry performer Shelby Stevens and Luke Adams; struggling young newlyweds from Utah, Precious and Happy McGuire; Olympic wrestler Johnny Adel and one-time socialite Dora Foster; and vaudeville brother-and-sister team Bette and Buddy Becker.
“Life’s a party, why don’t you come to the Steel Pier?”
Songs by the creators of Chicago and Cabaret perfectly capture the rhythms of the era and mirror the set-up of their previous work examining the decent from glamour to desperation. From the captivating opening number Everybody Dance to Shelby’s powerhouse Everybody’s Girl, Rita’s desperate eleven o clock number Running in Placeto the haunting finale Steel Pier, it is no wonder the composers have previously commented that this is some of their favourite work.
Dance marathons have been described as the earliest form of reality TV, so, with a society currently obsessed with quick fix fame and, more importantly, seeing the fall out of this, Steel Pier seems more relevant than ever.