In the late 1980s rock icon Tom Waits, beat poet William S. Burroughs and theatrical visionary Robert Wilson collaborated on this operatic adaptation of a 19th-century folk tale. The Black Rider premiered in German at the Thalia Theater in Hamburg in 1990 and then toured around the world. In 1998 the November Theatre performed the world English premiere in Edmonton and has been touring it across North America ever since. In 1999 the production appeared in the New York International Fringe Festival. From 2004 to spring 2008 the show went on to successful runs at theatres across Western Canada, including two runs at Vancouver's PuSh Festival.
November Theatre made Canadian theatre history when The Black Rider became the only show to have ever won the Best Production Award at the Jessie Awards (Vancouver), the Betty Mitchell Awards (Calgary) and the Sterling Awards (Edmonton).
The cast from the spring 2008 production in Vancouver's PuSh Festival are assembled again for the Toronto run: Kevin Corey, Mackenzie Gray, Rachael Johnston, Michael Scholar Jr. and Colleen Winton, joined by Ashley Wright. The musical director is Corinne Kessel, who also plays in the "Devil's Rubato Band" with musicians Duane Elias and Bryce Kulak.
"In this darkly stylized version of the traditional German tale, a stern and unrelenting father (Ashley Wright) sets the terms for his daughter Katchen's (Rachael Johnston) marriage: he will not yield her to anyone other than an accomplished hunter," according to Tarragon. "This presents a problem to the young and feckless clerk, Wilhelm (Kevin Corey), who is besotted by Katchen. Help arrives in the form of the devilish Peg Leg (Michael Scholar Jr.), a mysterious and sinister visitor. He offers Wilhelm magic bullets with this one proviso: 'Six are yours and hit the mark; one is mine, and hits the dark.' Wilhelm ignores this ominous warning with dire consequences."
The play "evokes the atmosphere of a gothic circus, where poetry, music, and dance fuse together to convey a seductive and menacing story." Ron Jenkins returns to direct the production, assisted by Marie Nychka who also provides choreography. The designers are Marissa Kochanski (set and costume), Michael Kruse (lighting) and Scott Peters (sound). Joanne P.B. Smith is the stage manager.
November Theatre is supported by the Goethe-Institut Toronto.
The Black Rider will continue to Nov. 16. For more information visit (416) 531-1827 or visit www.tarragontheatre.com.