Riverdance is now 20 years old (as the show title proclaims) and in that time Riverdance has from very humble beginnings gone on to become a global phenomenon and delight audiences worldwide. I have to admit now early in this review that for some reason the global phenomenon that is Riverdance had up until tonight completely passed me by. The show for some reason just never appealed to me and I could never understand what all the fuss was about. Well tonight, I found out what the fuss was about and why Riverdance is the unbelievable success that it is. I had missed out on something quite unique and have to admit that mistake.
The show tonight was absolutely nothing like I had expected Riverdance to be, and that was a big surprise. Yes, there is Irish dancing by some of the best young Irish dancers in the world, but that is only a very small part of the show. Riverdance tells a story in song, music and dance. This show is a blend of many forms of dance including Irish dance, American Tap, Spanish Flamenco, Russian dance with little blends of ballet and other dance forms. Riverdance celebrates all dance styles. The format of tonight's show is in parts almost operatic and the on-stage musicians are simply outstanding.
Principal dancers for Riverdance20 tonight are for the girls - Alana Mallon, Ciara Sexton and Emma Warren. For the boys - Stephen Brennan, Bobby Hodges and Jason O'Neill. Spanish dancing is by Rocio Montoya, with Tap dancing by Kelly Issac and Michael Wood.
The Riverdance band are of course the heart of that Celtic sounding heartbeat throughout the show and much of that is delivered by Guy Rickarby performing on a huge drums and percussion set. David Lombardi delights the audience with some amazing fiddle playing as a soloist. Matt Bashford and Dave McGauran also drive the Riverdance heartbeat with their fine playing tonight.
While the Irish dancing is amazing in its precision, technical ability and choreography (which many of tonight's audience will have gone to see), the set piece for me is the scene in the second act when Irish dance meets American Tap and the dancers compete with one another as they watch each other's moves and try to outdo one another in ever complex dance steps and moves.
The set and lighting design on this show are also outstanding and are not simply technical props, they play their part in telling the stories of tonight's show.
Riverdance turned out to be nothing like I was expecting, so if you get the chance, go and see this show while it is at The Playhouse. If you do not manage to catch it there, try and see it somewhere on this tour. If you are a Riverdance fan already then you know what to expect. If not, then prepare to become one.
Review by Tom King