Hey, Riel! is an examination of the man behind two of Canada’s most notable rebellions. However, don’t attend this musical (put on by the Capital Region’s Musicalmania!) expecting a history lesson. The play spends most of its (somewhat drawn out) 90 minutes examining the mental angst Riel experienced before and during the rebellions he led, and in the months leading up to his execution.
Walking out of Hey Riel!, the first song to be played on my iPod was Bon Jovi’s “We Weren’t Born to Follow.” This song is oddly fitting for the story this musical tells, especially the refrain “we weren’t born to follow/come on and get up off your knees” – the story seems to alternate between scenes where Riel leads rebellions, and scenes where he prays for guidance.
Although the show initially faced negative comments from earlier attendees, the negative reviews didn’t seem to detract from the size of the audience, nor the audience’s reception of the piece. Immediately after the final dimming of the lights, several audience members remarked “wow, that was great!”
Personally, I found that the best parts of the show were when the cast sung together in numbers such as “Now is the Time” and “Batoche Battle Song.” I think this is very appropriate considering the story behind the play, as the rebellions were not fought by Riel alone, but by many Métis. Another high point of the show was Nadine Veroba, who has a fantastic vocal range, in the role of Mrs. Riel.
Hey, Riel runs at BYOV 36: Edmonton Musical Theatre Studio August 18 at 6:00 pm, August 19 at 9:00 pm, August 20 at 3:30 pm, and August 21 at 5:00 pm.