Journey of a Canadian icon set to music

Drayton Entertainment’s Marathon of Hope: The Musical tells the story of Terry Fox in a new way
[File Photo]

Prepare to be inspired by Canadian icon Terry Fox as Drayton Entertainment presents the world-premiere of Marathon of Hope: The Musical at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse next week.

Directed by Drayton’s artistic director, Alex Mustakas, the musical details Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope. The book for the show was written by award-winning playwright Peter Colley.

At just 21 years old, Terry Fox set off on a cross-Canada run in 1980 to raise funds and awareness for cancer research after having his right leg amputated due to bone cancer. The annual Terry Fox Run has raised more than $700 million worldwide since then for cancer research.

John Connolly is the composer and lyricist for the musical. He’s spent the past 12 years writing the music, which is described as “unmistakably Canadian.”

“It’s been a labour of love and a bit of a marathon in itself,” Connolly said.

Growing up in PEI he watched many new Canadian musicals at the Charlottetown Festival. As a songwriter, he’d always wanted to write something for the stage and he was on the hunt for a Canadian story to tell.

“I just started writing songs in my bedroom and along the way all the right people came on board and we had workshops at Sheridan College. They invited me back for workshops in 2007, 2010, 2011 and 2013 and then Drayton picked up the show in 2014.”

Since then it’s been rebuilt with a new creative team. The music is based on what Terry liked to listen to, artists like Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Dolly Parton. He says it’s got the country-folk vibe he grew up with, and describes the score as “rootsy.”

“It’s certainly a lot of acoustic guitars and nice harmonies. Behind all of that you have Terry’s incredible story.”

Simcoe’s Nathan Carroll stars as Terry Fox. He was chosen after a nationwide search through open call video auditions. Connolly says the role requires a certain type of singer.

“He’s on stage for 95 per cent of the show. He’s basically just singing for two hours, so incredible stamina is required, but then also a vocal style. You need that folksy inflection in your voice, or else it’s just not going to match the music. Beyond all that we were really looking for somebody who had that boy next door, everyman quality that Terry really had.”

Hawkesville resident Brooke Bauer portrays Judith Fox, Karen, Anne Marie and Sally in the show as one of two child actors in this family friendly production. She’s performed in Drayton’s musical productions many times.

The musical begins when Terry is in high school and follows him all the way through the cross-country run.

“His world starts to change pretty quickly when he gets his cancer diagnosis. He gets put in the children’s ward. So he was among the healthiest people in that ward and he saw a lot of kids younger than him die of cancer and it really changed him.”

Connolly notes the run was a struggle in the beginning, plagued with inconsistency through the Maritimes. Quebec was also tough, but by the time he got to Ontario he was a “rock star.”

“This is one of the most powerful stories ever to emerge from our country. It’s full of passion. You may think of the Marathon of Hope one way, but there’s a lot of things you don’t know and that’s really what we’ve tried to focus on is what we don’t know. This is the first time the Fox family has given their permission to do this on stage, so you’re going to be witnessing a world premiere of a groundbreaking theatrical event.”

The show is also a new way for the Fox family to tell the story because in 20 years there won’t be many people around who were with Terry on the road, who can tell his story. He says the entire cast is sensational including Drayton staples like Jayme Armstrong as Leslie Scrivener, Charlotte Moore as Betty Fox and Gregory Pemper as Darrell Fox, to name a few.

“It’s just a lot of talent in the room and a lot of humility, so it makes for a very exciting process. We’ve been able to move very quickly.”

And watching a 16-person chorus put together a production number of one of his songs, choreographed by choreographer David Connolly and arranged by musical director Michael Mulrooney is a dream come true.

Connolly hopes audiences leave the show full of hope and inspiration.

“Terry never gave up in the face of incredible odds. Every step was very difficult for him. He was in a lot of pain. His dream was coming true and that above all else meant the world to him. It’s incredibly inspiring to see him go through this journey. That’s really what he was looking to do, was inspire people to become engaged in his dream.”

Drayton will be donating to the Terry Fox Foundation as part of this production.

Marathon of Hope: The Musical opens at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse on Oct. 5 and runs until Oct. 30. Regular performance tickets are $44 for adults; $26 for youth under 20 years of age. Tickets for preview performances and groups of 20 or more are $36. HST is applicable to all tickets. Tickets are available online at or toll free at 1-855-drayton (372-9866).

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