Nov 6 2014 | By More

★★★★★    Magic and majesty

Edinburgh Playhouse: Tue 4 – Sun 9 Nov 2014
Review by Susan Lowes

It has been 20 years since Irish shoes first tapped into the hearts and minds of Europe and the 20th Anniversary Tour of Riverdance, playing the Playhouse to Sunday, proves that it still has the power and magic to wonder and delight.

A scene from Riverdance. Credit: Jack Hartin

A scene from Riverdance. Credit: Jack Hartin

Riverdance rose to fame following a seven-minute interval act during the Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin in April 1994 and has since been performed in a full stage show across the world. This tour follows much the same format as the original show, with a few variations here and there.

With music and lyrics by Bill Whelan, produced by Moya Doherty and directed by John McColgan, the show delivers the evocative imagery of the Emerald Isle in a fast-paced, energetic and exciting blend of Irish music, dancing and song.

Beginning with a darkened stage and the delicate, haunting voice of Siobhan Manson, the production creates a palpable feeling of suspense and anticipation. It’s not long before that is rewarded with the thunderous tapping of the full Irish dance troupe and the production builds with energy and intensity.

The first act portrays the primitive and ethereal world of Irish ancestors. The dancers represent the powers of the four elements and the first people’s interactions with them. The movements on stage are mirrored by imagery displayed on a large screen backdrop heightening the intensity of the dancing. Rocio Montoya’s performance is an excellent example of this as she embodies a fiery pride in her flaming flamenco.

Riverdance is perhaps most well-known for the strong male lead, originally played by Michael Flatley. However, it is the abundance of strong, independent and, at times, fierce female characters that dominate the first half of the production as the story unfolds. Ciara Sexton in particular excels in her role as principal dancer, adding an element of almost pixie magic to the mix as the journey from one world to another begins to unfold.

playful and humorous riffs

In contrast, the second act depicts the challenges to the native people of dislocations and arrival of outsiders. The dance-off between two unfamiliar cultures in Harbour of the New World is full of strength and majesty with playful and humorous riffs between dancers as cultures blend and fuse. It is here that the male characters come in to their element, with an awe-inspiring swift and steadfast performance by the lean and lithe Bobby Hodges as the principal lead, and spirited and playful tappers, Michael Wood and DeWitt Fleming Jr.

The musical interludes add an extra dimension to the production, showcasing and celebrating talented musicians and Irish musical traditions. David Lombardi on the Fiddle is exceptional and he, among others, demonstrate that the music, musicians and their instruments are not merely accompaniment for the dancers but stars in their own right.

As expected, the large ensemble numbers are a veritable treat for the senses. As wonderful as the music and score may be, it’s quickly apparent that the dancers can create their own music with their feet. They are synchronised to perfection; so confident and expert in their timing that they appear effortless. They are all separate dancers and yet they all feel so connected and in tune with each other – and even better it look like they loved every minute.

In this tour, Riverdance proves that it still has what it takes 20 years on. In fact, it’s virtually impossible not to get swept up in the emotion and magnificence of the production. A show that can be watched, and enjoyed, again and again.

Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes (including interval)
Edinburgh Playhouse, 18 – 22 Greenside Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3AA
Tuesday 4 – Sunday 9 November 2014
Daily 8pm; Sat/Sun: 2.30pm.
Full details and tickets on the Playhouse website: www.atgtickets.com
Tour website: http://riverdance.com/

Buy the music to Riverdance on Amazon:

Riverdance 20th anniversary tour:
Tue 4 – Sun 9 November 2014 Edinburgh
0844 871 3014 Book online
Mon 10 – Sat 15 November 2014 Sunderland
Sunderland Empire
0844 871 3022 Book online
Tue 18 – Sun 23 November 2014 Nottingham
RoyalConcert Hall
0115 989 5555 Book online
Tue 25 – Sun 30 November 2014 Oxford
New Theatre
0844 871 3020 Book online
Mon 1 – Sat 6 December 2014 Southampton
The Mayflower Theatre
02380 711811 Book online
Wed 10 – Sat 13 December 2014 London
Hammersmith Apollo
0844 249 1000 Book online


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