By Victoria L. Dammer
Suppose you’ve been hiding somewhere for the past two decades and haven’t seen the most exciting theatrical performance circling the globe. Then, you’re in luck. Critically acclaimed Riverdance, the Irish step dance performed with energetic movements, elaborate costumes, and scenic Irish backdrops, is back. So naturally, theatergoers are thrilled to see it again.
Riverdance 25th Anniversary Show played at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) for five performances and will head out on tour through June 11, traveling to other European countries and Dubai and entertaining native and world travelers in Dublin from June 15 to September 10. Wow, that much traveling is as exhausting as watching the energetic cast that danced Saturday, March 11.
Riverdance is not just Irish step dancing but a mystical journey with outstanding solo singing and instrumental performances, group harmonizing, ballet, tap, and Flamenco. There are ever-changing backdrops of sun, water, rivers, trees, and beautiful scenery from Ireland. The entire program is a dessert for the eyes, ears, and soul; if you are alive, you will clap, sing, and tap your feet during the two-hour performance.
Known for its Grammy Award-winning score and energy that is non-stop, composer Bill Whelan has rerecorded his soundtrack for the anniversary show. In addition, producer Moya Doherty and director John McColgan have reintroduced the show to new generations with “innovative and spectacular lighting, projection, stage, and costume designs.”
The show opened with a solo musical performance by one of the lead dancers, showcasing the sun, the life force, and the power behind the dance. Next, several dances celebrated the Irish homeland from its primitive origins and explored woman empowerment through Irish dance eloquence. Nature is an elemental force, and the troupe of male dancers defied her with an exciting dance that reverberated through the hall. Finally, all eyes were on the stage during a provocative Flamenco dance scene, with Rocio Dusmet displaying her unique skills for the folkloric dance of southern Spain.
After the Irish left their homeland for a new life in the second act, Michael Gardiner and two other male dancers and NYC street tappers Lamont Brown and Dharmesh Patel entertained us with an exhausting dance competition that ended in mutual admiration.
Haley Richardson treated the audience to her masterful talent on the fiddle, Cathal Croke played the Uilleann Pipes with finesse, and Hannah Riches warmed the crowd with her performance on the saxophone. In addition, Mark Alfred performed solo on the bodhran, a well-known percussion instrument rarely seen in many American orchestras.
An exceptional performance by the Dervish ensemble was almost dizzying as the four dancers whirled across the stage, dressed in traditional Russian folk dance style costumes.
Brian, Donna, and Anna Getcliffe came from south Jersey to see the show. They joined 50 others to support two dancers in the production, Noel Spillane and Emily McFadden, both students of the DeNogla Academy of Irish Dance in Verona. 14-year-old Anna, a student studying Irish dance for the past seven years at DeNogla, said, “I’ve seen Riverdance three or four times, and each time it gets better and better.” Her mom and dad both remarked, “Riverdance never gets old. We could see it ten times more.” Other patrons made similar remarks after the powerful finale. Seeing the Riverdance 25th Anniversary show is highly recommended.
Produced by Moya Doherty; composer Bill Whelan; directed by John McColgan; lead design by Peter Canning; set design by Alan Farquharson; lighting by Andrew Voller; video by Cosmo AV; costumes by Joan Bergin; sound by Michael O’Gorman.
Cast includes but not limited to Amy-Mae Dolan, Will Bryant, Maggie Darlington, Anna Mai Fitzpatrick, Fergus Fitzpatrick, James Greenan, Meadhbh Kennedy, Brandon Asazawa, Belle Brenton, Kiernan Bryant, Morgan Bullock, Gerard Bryne, Keeva Correy, Matthew Gardiner, Michael Gardiner, Emma Mannion, Jordan McCormick, Faith Moore, Olivia Nactigal, Cian Porter, Dylan Scholls Zoe Talbot, Mairead Trainor and Elle-Mae Wheeler.
Russian dancers include Ana Turcan, Eugeniu Turcan, Christine Lesnikova, Alexander Safonov; tappers Tyler Knowlin and Darmesh Patel; flamenco dancer Rocio Dumset.