Abhann Productions' North American company of Riverdance — The Show, produced by Moya Doherty and directed by John McColgan and originally choreography by Michael "Lord of the Dance" Flatley and others, really had Raleigh Memorial Auditorium rocking Tuesday night. This latest high-stepping presentation of Broadway Series South more than lived up to its lofty advance billing as the ultimate song-and-dance extravaganza.
Scenic designer Bill Ballagh's soaring and almost mythic sets for the Ireland of legend and New World sights seen by wave after wave of Irish immigrants, costume designer Joan Bergin's beautiful sparkly creations, and lighting designer Rubert Murray's skillful shifts from moody atmospherics to visual pyrotechnics created a veritable feast for the eye.
And The Riverdance Orchestra's exuberant performance of Nick Ingman and Bill Whelan's lively orchestrations provided a veritable feast for the ear as well.
As passionately narrated here by John Kavanagh from the poems of Theo Dorgan, composer Bill Whelan's lively 1995 salute to Irish music and song and traditional Irish step-dancing is sheer poetry in motion, divided into 13 unforgettable scenes. Riverdance — The Show is, perhaps, even more thrilling the second time around, thanks to its young and very, very talented cast and a coterie of simply outstanding musicians. (Broadway Series South first brought Riverdance to Raleigh, North Carolina in January 2000.)
The current Lagan company touring the United States and Canada stars principal dancers Michael Patrick Gallagher and Tara Barry. They put on quite a show Tuesday night. Gallagher and Barry and The Riverdance Irish Dance Troupe really tripped the light fantastic, proving equally adept at Irish step-dancing, soft-shoe, tap-dance, etc. Gallagher and Barry justly deserve their star billing, but others in the dance troupe are not far behind them.
The Riverdance Orchestra, led by musical director Patrick Dunne (keyboards), showcase the awesome talents of fiery fiddler Maria Millar and Uilleann piper Brian O'Brien (who also played low whistle). Robbie Casserly (drums and percussion), Carl Geraghty (saxophone), and Colm Gannon (box accordion) also made the most of their moments in the spotlight, whereas as Zac Drummond (electric, acoustic, and classical guitars), Andy Reilly (Bodhrán and percussion), and Eoghan O'Neill (bass guitar) provided a peerless rhythm section.
Led by drum captain Ian McTigue, The Riverdance Drummers — Darren Holden, Stephen Flanagan, and Tony O'Sullivan — made several memorable appearances throughout the evening. Meanwhile, the soloists of The Riverdance Singers — Aidan Conway and Sherry Steele — were rattling the rafters in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, and black baritone soloist Joseph Noble was stealing the show with his ringing renditions of the anti-slavery ballads "Heal Their Hearts" and "Freedom."
Fiery and sensual featured dancer Rosa Manzano Jiménez stopped the show twice during her "Flamenco Firedance" and "Andalucia" segments. And Riverdance — The Show also featured fervent performances by members of the Moscow Folk Ballet Company, led by dance captain Alexei Soukharev.
Another showstopper was "Trading Taps" tap-dance extravaganza showcasing the talents of tap captain Ronald "Cadet" Bastine, Walter "Sundance" Freeman, and DeAndre Louis Wolf. The dance contest between the "Trading Taps" trio of African ancestry and three Irish dancers led by Michael Patrick Gallagher was one of the many high points that brought the audience to its feet at in the show's conclusion for one of the longest and loudest standing ovations in the history of Raleigh Memorial Auditorium.
Don't miss Riverdance — The Show. It is the perfect antidote for the winter doldrums.
Broadway Series South presents Riverdance — The Show Tuesday-Friday, Jan. 14-17 and 21-24, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Jan. 18 and 25, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, January 18 and 25, at 2 and 7 p.m. in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the BTI Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $31.50-$68.50. 919/834-4000 or 919/231-4575 (discounts for groups of 20 or more). http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/2002-2003/broadway.html#riverdance [inactive 4/04] or http://www.riverdance.com/.