Dancer (A Musical In Ten Furlongs) is the story of Northern Dancer, the “horse nobody wanted” – the too-small, too-ungainly, too-willful thoroughbred who overcame doubt, injury and history to become the first Canadian-bred horse to win the Kentucky Derby, in 1964. And he won it in record time! The Dancer then went on to become the most successful sire in thoroughbred racing history.
This joyfully original show is written by Jim Betts, the Dora and Chalmers Award winning playwright and lyricist, with music by multi-award-winning composer Marek Norman, and choreography by Emmy-Award Nominee Stacey Tookey.

How do you tell the story of a

racehorse in a musical?

Taking inspiration from his name, Northern Dancer, and all the other horses in his story, are played by dancers, as dancers. Unlike Equus or War Horse, our dancers simply become horses, using their natural grace and athleticism, and without the use of special headdresses, puppetry or costuming. 

To see a sample of what that looks like, have a look at this video


The show itself is part ballet, part musical, part rock concert. It’s a musical where the lead character never speaks or sings, a ballet with dialogue, and a rock concert featuring songs that icons like The Beatles and Gordon Lightfoot never got around to writing in the ‘60’s.

The real-life humans of the story are played by actor/singers – characters like E. P. Taylor [Daniel Kash] the legendary Canadian businessman, Winnie Taylor [Barbara Barsky], who saw Dancer’s potential long before her husband, Horatio Luro [Gene Gabriel], the flamboyant if controversial Argentinian horse trainer, and Daryl [Sam Rosenthal], the archetypical Track & Race Announcer. Other colourful characters include Willie Shoemaker, the world’s most successful jockey at the time, and the very enthusiastic Canadian Prime Minister, Lester Pearson, who at one point almost put Northern Dancer on his new Canadian flag.

The character who best speaks for Dancer, however, is his quiet, enigmatic African Canadian groom, Bill Brevard [Sterling Jarvis]. Through their shared determination, amid adversity, they form a bond that propels them to greatness together, altering horse-racing history.

Dancer is a unique Canadian musical with the potential to excite Canadian audiences across the country. Thrilling, thought-provoking, and joyful this show will feature some of our country’s best creative artists, and promises to be a show unlike anything the Toronto Fringe has ever seen. As one of the songs in the show says, Oh, What a Ride!


Photos by Mario Gagnon


Have a listen to tracks from Dancer the Musical at the Toronto Fringe 2023

Thanks to Marek Norman & David Bradstreet