AT&T Performing Arts Center
Directed by John McColgan
Composer – Bill Whelan
Orchestrations – Nick Ingman, Bill Whelan
Music Director – Mark Alfred
Sound Design – Michael O'Gorman
Lighting Design – John Comiskey
Set Design – Robert Ballagh
Costume Design – Joan Bergin
Projection Animation – Luis Poveda
Poetry written by Theo Dorgan
Male Principles – Kiernan Hardiman, Jason O'Neill, Callum Spencer
Female Principles – Maggie Darlington, Amy-Mae Dolan, Gianna Petracic
Troupe – Megan Baffa, Ellen Bonner, Will Bryant, Darren Casey, Courtney D'Angelo, Aiden Garvey, Mitchell Hodges, Meadhbh Kennedy, Kelsey Latham, Miriam Lee, John Lonergan, Greg Maloney, Jennifer Murray, Louise O'Sullivan, Jack Quinn, Lauren Smyth, Megan Walsh, Peter Wilson
Baritone soloist – Lamont Brown
Flamenco Soloist - Marina Claudio Manso
Russian Folk Dance Troupe – Ekaterina Brovkina, Rifat Gabdulkhakov, Aleksander Safonov, Mariia Tsuneva, Euginiu Turcan, Ana Turcan
Tappers – Lamont Brown, Tyler Knowlin
Poetry Narration – John Kavanagh
Reviewed Performance: 3/20/2018
Reviewed by Richard P. Buswold, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Riverdance was on my bucket list. Now that has been checked off. When Whelan and McColgan created this show 20+ years ago, with original choreography by Michael Flately, it was an instant sensation. It sold out a five-week run in three days. It started simply enough as fill-in act for the Eurovision Song Contest in 1994 expanding to a full length show in 1995. Since then it has been produced in several countries around the world and seen live by more than 25 million people.
Like most people in America, my first exposure to it came through PBS and their always-loved campaign week programming. I could not believe the precision of the dancers and the sheer power and energy produced by the dancers. I was truly taken aback. Flatley left the show to create "Lord of the Dance" and a few other productions and in turn the other principles left for other projects and other dance shows. "Riverdance" has a tag line of "The Original, The Best", and I must agree with that. "Riverdance" gone through some changes as far as the pieces performed and the look of the show but it is still very impressive, powerful, visually stunning and probably the absolute best use of two hours of your free time this weekend.
This particular assemblage of dancers hail mostly from Ireland but also Britain, Canada, Australia and the US. All of them hold major championship titles and Maggie Darlington from California has won four North American championships and the World Irish Dancing Championship in 2007. Amy-Mae Dolan is also a World Irish Dancing Championship title holder and Kiernan Hardiman and Callum Spencer have both placed in the top ten of the same competition. Most of these dancers know each other from the competition circuit but here they dance together celebrating the beauty and grace that is Irish Dancing. Here is my one major complaint for the show. I don't know who danced in the performance I saw. Do these six people cycle through daily as to who is dancing the lead? Is it tour stop by tour stop? In the grand scheme of things, I guess it really doesn't matter since all of them are super talented but as an interested patron, and more so as a reviewer, I want to know who I am supposed to be heaping the praise upon. There might have been a poster or something in the lobby that states who is dancing the leads this particular show but I did not see one. Like I said, it detracts very little from the show but I would like to know.
The female lead at my performance was impeccable. Strong and alluring while floating through the dances with graceful perfection. The male lead did not have the same stage presence as his counterpart. As a matter of fact, until "Trading Taps", the tap-off with the American tap dancers, I would say that his presence was even to the point of lacking. The whole company was pumped and made the energy flow through the Winspear like sea breeze on the Cliffs of Dover. I was truly entertained all evening and my guest and myself left the theatre with a joyous good feeling. In fact, I dare you to try and leave in a bad mood. I don't think it can be done.
The music was balanced perfectly with the stamps and clicks of the hard shoe dancers and the interludes that featured the 'orchestra' were pleasant and rich. I wonder if there is a way to make the Uilleann Pipes (the Irish version of the bagpipe) ever sound anything but mournful. Here is where the unexpected gem of the show is. Mark Alfred.
Mark is the music director and also the drummer, nay, percussionist for the show. When you think of a drummer you think of a guy sitting behind a trap set keeping a beat. Mark was encased in such a conglomeration of percussion instruments of every size, shape and utility that every once in a while I actually caught myself turning my attention to watch him in his monkey cage. I was in awe of his ability to go between the different setups with such precision and poise. I couldn't tell you how many instruments he had to play with but I am thinking it was probably more than 100 all told. When he stepped out of his cage to solo on the bodhran, the Irish pride rose in this reviewer to levels not easily attained.
Marina Claudio Manso was engaging with her Flamenco solos in the first and second acts. The dances were vastly different from each other and showed what can be accomplished with subtle changes in style. The only flub was with the Russians where one guy seemed to almost drop his partner. In his defense, he was swinging her around, between and through his legs in such a way as to almost defy gravity so I guess I can cut him a break just this one time.
Everything about this show was beautiful, everything was graceful, everything was powerful and tender and magnificent and maybe even a little sexy all at the same time. I am so glad I got to finally see this live after 20 years and I believe "Riverdance" will still be performing for the next 20 years. You owe it to yourself to go see it.
"Riverdance" plays through March 25th at the Winspear Opera House,
2403 Flory ST in Dallas.
Wednesday/Thursday Curtain 7:30
Friday/Saturday Evening Curtain 8:00
Saturday Matinee 2:00
Sunday Curtain 1:30 and 7:00
Tickets $25 - $99
To purchase tickets, go to www.attpac.org or call the Box Office at 214-880-0202