Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Riverdance: A Pleasant Surprise


It is easy to understand why "Riverdance" continues to play packed houses across the United States night after night, year after year. Christina and I saw it for the first time tonight and everything I expected was there. A lot I didn't expect made it a far better show than I imagined it would be.

During one particularly slow and mournful song early in the show, I leaned over to Christina and groused, "I thought this was Riverdance, not Riversing," but in just a few minutes the dead spot was over and the rousing, thunderous soul of the show was back on display. (There was a moment later in the show where a large, bald-headed man came out to sing and I expected "Old Man River" from the looks of him. He sang well, but it wasn't Riverdance.)

This is, indeed, about dance (and a marvelous five-piece band that sounds like an orchestra), though voice plays a minimal role periodically. It is mostly about Irish dance--Broadway Irish dance in the same way that Aaron Copeland reflects our Appalachian Spring. Still, whether or not it is fully authentic, it is as entertaining as this type of show can possibly be and when the audience stands and cheers at the end, it is genuine emotion talking.

I think the highlight for me was the dueling tap number where two American tap dancers and three Irish dancers did the old dueling banjos schtick. It was lively, funny and fully inclusive in a way I never expected this show to be.

All I knew of it was that it was about Irish dance. I discovered that the show is based on native dance and that this kind of dance has similarities in many cultures (on display tonight: Irish, American, Spanish and Russian).

It was a thoroughly engaging evening at the Roanoke Civic Center and if you'll hurry, you can catch the last of three shows tomorrow night--if there are any tickets left. Good show. Far better, frankly, than I expected.

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