Dancer, opening the Toronto Fringe Festival, celebrates Oshawa’s greatest equine athlete


Published July 4, 2023 at 10:20 am

One of Oshawa’s greatest athletes and certainly the best-ever on four legs is the subject of a musical theatre production – Dancer (A Musical in Ten Furlongs) – premiering at the Toronto Fringe Festival Wednesday and running until July 16.

The winner of the 2023 Adams Prize for Musical Theatre, Dancer opens at the Al Green Theatre on Spadina Avenue. It’s the inspirational story about the ‘too small, too awkward, too feisty’ colt who defied all odds to become the first Canadian-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby.

Born in Oshawa in 1961, Northern Dancer added the Preakness Stakes and the Queen’s Plate to that magical 1964 racing season and would become the world’s greatest sires, with his progeny winning major stakes races around the world for generations.

Part high-concept musical, part high-octane ballet, Dancer celebrates a Canadian horse racing icon. Taking inspiration from the legendary horse’s name, Northern Dancer and all the other horses are played by dancers, who simply become horses, using their natural grace and athleticism, and without the use of special headdresses, puppetry or costuming.

The original show was written by Dora and Chalmers Award winning playwright and lyricist Jim Betts, with music by multi-award-winning composer Marek Norman. Emmy-Award Nominee Stacey Tookey directs and choreographs. Adding their creative talents are Musical Director Mark Camilleri, Set and Costume Designer JB Nelles and Dora Award Winner Lighting Designer Steve Lucas. Northern Dancer biographer Muriel Lennox acts as consultant. For extra authenticity, Official Kentucky Derby Milliner Jenny Pfanenstiel even created an original hat for the show.

Keanu Uchida stars as Northern Dancer and the story is told by historic characters, including Dancer’s groom, Bill Brevard (Dora Award winner Sterling Jarvis), Canadian tycoon E.P. Taylor (three time Gemini Award winner Daniel Kash), his wife Winnie Taylor (Dora Award winner Barbara Barsky) and Dancer’s trainer, Horatio Luro, (Gene Gabriel). Calling the races and adding colour commentary is ACTRA Award nominee Sam Rosenthal. With a cast of 20, and award-winning creators and performers, Dancer is “the show to place your bets on.”

For more information and to watch a clip, visit Dancer (A Musical In Ten Furlongs).

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