With St. Pat’s just around the corner, what better than Irish dance to put you in the mood for all things Irish? “Riverdance 25 Anniversary Show” has Irish music and song but especially Irish dance. It is on stage at the Fabulous Fox through Sunday, March 13.
This is the 25th anniversary tour of this audience favorite and the show opens with a photo montage of past shows and its stars. This tour features all the Irish music, song and dance you expect, with fabulous dramatic staging and sparkling costumes, but also a nod to other dance forms, with little tastes of flamenco, Russian folk dancing and even a nod to an American style, tap dance. There is a dash or two of ballet as well, and a little Irish poetry.
It is a wonderful evening’s entertainment, whether you are a long time fan or new to the show. All the dance pieces are just the right length, neither too long nor too short, and presented with exciting, colorful moving images projected on screens at the back of the stage.
The show had two acts, plus a brief intermission. Dance numbers often alternated between men’s and women’s dances, with the principal dancers at the fore. The Irish numbers opened and closed each act, with dance numbers, like the opener “Reel Around the Sun,” alternating with performances by singers, such as “The Heart’s Cry,” or musicians, like in the lament “Caoineadh Chu Chulainn.” “Thunderstorm” delivered an electrifying video show as a backdrop for the male Irish dancers. Flamenco soloist Rocio Montoya teamed with Irish dancers in “Firedance” and Russian dancers were backed by Irish singers for “Shivna.”
The second half kicked off with an homage to Irish emigration, “American Wake,” and the Irish singers in “Life the Wings.” That was followed with kind of dance competition between the Irish in New York and American tap dancers, “Trading Taps,” with a little hip hop thrown in. The other folk dancers returned, backed by Irish dancers in “Macedonian Morning, The Russian Dervish” for the Russian folk dancers, and “Ritmos Del Corazon/Andalucia” with the flamenco dancer, Irish male lead dancer and Irish drummer. The show closed with a finale that brought the whole company on stage.
That dancers were both delightful and seemingly inexhaustible in their fast fancy footwork. The show’s principal dancers, Will Bryant, Maggie Darlington, Amy-Mae Dolan, Anna Mai Fitzpatrick, Fergus Fitzpatrick, James Grennan and Meadhbh Kennedy, all delivered thrillingly, with original principal Irish dance choreography by former Riverdance star Michael Flatley. The feet were flying, almost too fast to see, and the kicks, front and back, were amazingly high, often with an extra bang of the drums to add extra punch.
In the sampling of other dance traditions, flamenco soloist Rocio Montoya was a standout but each gave the audience wonderful performances. Russian dancers Christine Lesnikova, Aleksandr Safonov, Ana Turcan and Eugeniu Turcan, were impressively acrobatic. Tappers Tyler Knowlin Dharmesh Patel sprinkled their high-energy tapping with humor and bravado.
Imagery ranges from rocky Irish inlets with rolling seas to bucolic green hills that shift through the seasons, to dramatic landscapes lit with flashing lightning to peaceful stone cottages in a village, lit by glowing hearths within. Costumes are often green and sequined but usually in the style of traditional Irish dance costumes, with the short flared skirts on the lasses and tight pants and vests on the lads. The other dance traditions presented also reflect that respect for their traditions, including street wear for the New Yorkers.
On stage musicians provide the beats, with drum and pipe to the forefront. Extra drum flourishes mark the high kicks, adding a thrilling bump. The musicians get their solos and singers in traditional style do as well. The lyrics weren’t always clear but the melodies were what mattered and those were was soaring and beautiful.
A better night’s entertainment to put one in the mood for St. Pat’s could hardly be imagined, and the big-stage production of Irish music and dance was great fun. “Riverdance” has always mixed Irish tradition with modern touches but they always have done so with respect for that tradition and an eye to entertain their audience. That is all true in this production as well.
For an evening of light-hearted fun with a Irish brogue, this show couldn’t be beat. “Riverdance 25th Anniversary” is on stage at the Fabulous Fox through Mar. 13.
© Cate Marquis