‘Riverdance’ 25th Anniversary Tour Alight with the Energy and Joy of Traditional Irish Dance
Long celebrated and revered, the infamous Irish and Celtic dance and music show Riverdance is spinning into town for a quick three-day jaunt for San Diego audiences at Broadway San Diego’s Civic Theatre.
Leading the 100th show of the tour in its 25th anniversary production, dance principals Fergus Fitzpatrick and Amy-Mae Dolan are a technically dazzling and vivacious duo. Dolan, who won the World Irish Dance Championships, also led the 2020 cinema version of the show. She is fiercely energetic and carries a visibly light and joyous spirit from top to bottom of the production, capturing particular attention in a primal first act solo which features integrated fight and dance choreography. Fitzpatrick, likewise an Irish Dance World Champion, captivates the audience with his confidence and technical skill, claiming the breadth of the stage as his own and catapulting viewers into breathlessness with the speed and accuracy of his footwork.
The production, directed by John McColgan, also stars the Riverdance Irish Dance Troupe (performing the production’s original choreography), musicians and singers, and featured soloists. A variety of international small group numbers have a chance to shine throughout the 18-number production alongside the more traditional Irish jigs, reels, and hornpipes, all of which are expertly performed by the talented troupe. Audience favorite Rocio Dusmet’s Sevilla flamenco in particular is breathtaking and the New York jive tap duo, featuring Lamont Brown and Dharmesh Patel, are charming in their New York “Trading Taps” dance-off scene with a trio of jeans-and-white-tee-wearing Irish dancers. Though I find the Brooklyn scene itself somewhat trope-laden, the performances themselves are spirited and the performers are entertaining, feeding off of the audience energy and delivering it right back in spades.
And while the production relies heavily on a combination of the technical skill and lyricism of the dancers, the pairing with the aural contributions of the Riverdance band, a quartet playing percussion/bodhrán, uilleann pipes/low whistle, fiddle, and saxophone, is exquisite. Each musician has an opportunity to shine during the production alongside composer Bill Whelan’s stirring soundtrack, including a chillingly moving Caoineadh cú chulainn (lament) by piper Cathal Croke.
This newest iteration of Riverdance has also been amplified with a variety of visual effects and projections, oft animated, which span the length of the back curtain and the two screens behind the band members, as well as a curated set and lighting scheme which help to tell the various folk stories and add context to various thematic vignettes. These have been designed by members of the High Res team. A stippling effect that runs across the audience and is later used on stage to highlight a soloist by fiddler Haley Richardson is especially stirring and effective, as are the cave entrance and lightning sequences.
While the show itself is conceptually simple – a dance troupe performs a series of independent numbers – the elements themselves are gorgeous and well executed, making Riverdance at once a purposeful, dynamic, percussive, and lyrical dance experience. Given this and the catchiness of the tunes, it is easy to see why there are so many repeat attendees.
This anniversary tour production runs at the Civic Theatre through April 13 before moving on to the next stop of the tour.
Read more about the Cast and Creatives online.
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