A new musical in development based on the novel
They Shoot Horses Don’t They? by Horace McCoy
music and lyrics by Joe Jackson
Set in the great American Depression, the musical centres on two out of work Hollywood wannabes who, in desperation, join a dance marathon for free food, board and the chance to get noticed by film producers. In a jaded, claustrophobic pier ballroom, the disparate group of contestants are manipulated by the contests’ promotors and worn down by physical and mental fatigue with fatal consequences.
Blurring the lines between theatre and reality, dance marathons were a huge draw in the entertainment industry during the Great Depression, they were the brutal fore-runner of today’s reality television. Beginning in 1923 as light-hearted competitions of endurance, dance marathons eventually transformed into something rather dark and exploitative. Contestants, who were often in dire financial straits, were given shelter and meals as long as they kept dancing, with a substantial cash award for the last couple standing.