Now selling well into September, Riverdance On Broadway marks its first anniversary at the Gershwin Theatre on March 16. Several cast and content changes have taken place at the show and both current and former cast members are exploring a variety of opportunities prompted by the show's success.
As reported, bass-baritone Michel Bell recently joined the cast of Riverdance-On Broadway. Correcting earlier reports, Bell did not directly replace Irish pop star Brian Kennedy in Riverdance. In fact, Kennedy was replaced by four-year Riverdance veteran singer Michael Londra.
For his part, Kennedy has been pursuing solo music gigs in New York as well as benefit performances for political fundraisers that included then President Clinton. Now in New York during Riverdance's anniversary week, Kennedy will be opening for The Coors at Radio City Music Hall on March 16. But, there are no official plans for him to appear during Riverdance's anniversary show.
There have been content changes in the show as well: the African Choir is no longer part of Riverdance. The new format has Michel Bell singing the songs "Heal Their Hearts" and "Freedom." The song "Endless Journey," formally sung by Brian Kennedy, has been removed from the program. Bell, who has appeared in Hal Prince’s Show Boat and Porgy in Porgy and Bess worldwide, was last on Broadway in Frank Wildhorn's The Civil War. Bell started performing at the Gershwin Theatre on Jan. 10.
Other activity connected with the show involves original Riverdance cast member and principal dancer Eileen Martin, who has been with the greater Riverdance company since 1994. Describing herself as "one of the old ones," martin is now with Riverdance On Broadway and was recently featured in a Donny Osmond PBS special aired on March 11. Osmond made the initial Riverdance connection on his Broadway album by singing the Riverdance song "Edge of the World." The song was featured on his PBS show. In that special, he was accompanied by Martin and other Broadway dancers in a routine choreographed by theatre veteran and Emmy Award winner Patricia Birch. Osmond's PBS special supported the release of his Decca Broadway compilation album, This Is the Moment which hit stores on Feb. 6. Phil Ramone produced the album, which features songs by such pop tunesmiths/Broadway composers as Lynn Ahrens, Leslie Bricusse, George M. Cohan, Ben Elton, Stephen Flaherty, Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb, Robin Gibb, Elton John, Jonathan Larson, Frank Loesser, Randy Newman, Tim Rice, Stephen Sondheim, Jim Steinman, Dr. Seuss, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Bill Wheelan and Frank Wildhorn.
"It was great to work with Donny Osmond, " Martin told Playbill On-Line. "I always thought of him as untouchable and miles away." The Irish national said she was particularly enthused about working with choreographer Patricia Birch and was very pleased with the result of that collaboration.
"She has such different ideas," Martin explained. "She had seen me as an Irish dancer, but she also had an image of me that was different for me. It was something more than just pure Irish dance. As a dancer you never look the way you feel and sometimes you just don't see yourself the way it looks to others. When we first worked on it, it seemed a bit slower and the moves seemed awkward, but Pat wanted to mold me and it was great to have somebody do that. They sent me a tape and I think it looks wonderful, with lots of lifts. I was working with two Broadway dancers which was totally new for me, and it helped me build trust in the process of working with someone. If Pat rang me tomorrow, I'd definitely work with her."
In addition to Donny Osmond and Eileen Martin, singer, actress and former Miss America Vanessa Williams was also featured on the PBS special, which was taped on Jan. 18.
For the Decca Broadway album, Osmond recorded songs from Seussical as well as "This is The Moment" from Jekyll and Hyde.
Riverdance tickets range from $25 - $80. The Gershwin Theatre is located at 222 W. 51 St. For tickets call Ticketmaster at (212) 307-4100; outside Metro NY call (800) 755-4000.