Thursday, Nov. 16 at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium
11455 – 87 Ave.
Tickets: $15 to $25 plus service charges. Visit http://www.ticketmaster.ca
Will the real Louis Riel please stand up. Depending on who you ask, the Métis leader was either a murderous insurgent or the revered founder of Manitoba. He was also one of the most troubling and haunting, or possibly haunted figures in Canadian history.
He was hanged on Nov. 16, 1885 at the North West Mounted Police barracks in Regina, a sentence mandated after he was convicted of treason for leading rebellions against Canada.
On the 132nd anniversary of Riel’s death, Musicalmania remounts the musical Hey, Riel! this Thursday at the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium.
Many professional historians have stated the account of his arrest, trial and hanging was an inaccurate portrayal simply written off as high treason.
St. Albert composer/lyricist Cindy Oxley, founder of Musicalmania! agrees. As a historical detective she relishes delving into our ancestors’ legacies, and has used her immense talent to create a flesh and blood man as he might have existed.
Through her research Oxley discovered a man of intelligence, resourcefulness and courage – a man who also enjoyed a messianic complex.
“What really hits home is his conviction for standing up for what he believed in. Riel didn’t like bullies, even as a child. He stood up to bullying from the government. He could have had an easy out, but he knew he was right and was executed,” said Oxley.
Julien Constantin directs the Thursday remount with its full orchestral sound. He also does double duty as Thomas Scott, Riel’s major adversary, a man favouring colonial expansion for white men only.
“Scott was ethnocentric. His belief was ‘Our way is better. We are more civilized,'” said Constantin. “He became a threat to Riel. In a squabble, he stabs one of Riel’s men and he dies. Riel then puts Thomas Scott to death.”
In Hey Riel!, Scott’s ghost returns from the dead to haunt the religious Riel. In a bitter twist of fate, the Métis leader is forever locked in battle with his adversary.
“Riel was trying to get the attention of John A. MacDonald. Not all his choices were sound and the execution of Thomas Scott came to be his demise,” Constantin explained.
Yet the historical figure represented hope for many. Surveyors were sent to parcel land. First Nations and Métis were increasingly usurped from their homes and confined to handkerchief-size patches of land.
“He was trying to draw attention to biased land issues. It was difficult to be the voice of the people. It was hard to get the attention required to make change.”
In a cast of 17, five actors in addition to Constantin hold key roles. Ken Mastel plays Riel while Levi Anderson is Gabriel Dumont, his right-hand man. Maria Kolassis-Harrigan plays Mrs. Riel, Jerry De Zutter is General Middleton and Mike Stolz leads the audience as the narrator.
By choice or by circumstance, Riel’s martyrdom left Canadians with an incredible inheritance.
“He wanted equality for all people. He didn’t just stand up for Métis against the colonial government. He wanted equal rights for all. He was a controversial figure and we want to tell the story of this unique man.”
Constantin believes Canada has taken important steps in addressing past grievances through ministerial apologies.
“But the struggle continues. Canada has made good steps, but the healing doesn’t happen overnight.”