Playbill Critics Circle: Review Riverdance

News   Playbill Critics Circle: Review Riverdance
 
Fans of Riverdance have been enjoying the foot-pounding Irish dance revue on stages in Ireland, London, the U.S., and on video, for two years now. But since PBS began showing a tape of the show on TVs throughout the U.S. We thought it was time to ask you what you think.

Fans of Riverdance have been enjoying the foot-pounding Irish dance revue on stages in Ireland, London, the U.S., and on video, for two years now. But since PBS began showing a tape of the show on TVs throughout the U.S. We thought it was time to ask you what you think.

What do you think is the appeal of Riverdance? Will it change the public's view of clogging? Who deserves the most credit: the choreographer, the dancers or the tradition itself? How does it make you feel when you watch it? Is Riverdance overrated -- or underrated?

The critics have weighed in with their opinions; here's a chance to add your opinion to theirs.

If you've seen the production, please post your comments - long or short -- in the Riverdance subject under the Playbill Critics Circle topic on the Playbill's Message Boards.. Playbill thanks, in advance, those who take the time to write.

The following are reviews received prior to the launch of our Message Boards. Please post all future reviews to the Message Boards:  

From: IRISHJOJO:
I saw it on PBS, and thought it was one of the most exciting shows I've ever seen. I have been a dancer most of my life and can appreciate what they are doing...astounding!
Michael Flatley has much charisma, and his face sometimes just seems to exude the joy of what he is doing. Jean Butler is wonderful also, and to me is the epitome of a beautiful Irish lass.
The dancers were very exciting, and their unity was amazing.
The TV program "The Kennedy Center Honors" had a number with Jean Butler, and another male, unknown to me, who did not have Flatleys qualities.
I recommended the PBS show to many friends, who also shared my love for it..and we are now searching for the video to purchase.
Thanks for letting me put my 2 cents in! (1/4/97)

 

From LToepp:
I've had the opportunity to see Riverdance on PBS several times now and I can't get enough. It is a unique expression of Irish culture and I found it refreshing. The fact that Bill Whelan composed the music in three months and the entire stage production was put together in ten months is unbelievable. The singers and dancers are a fresh blend of diverse talent and the show left me feeling uplifted. I only wish I could see the show in person. (12/25/96)

 

From: MohawkDJ:
We just returned from a two week school trip to England, and had the privilege to see a performance of Riverdance. Our twenty students, and their exchange partners absolutely loved the performance! I think Celtic music has become more popular in the States, and Riverdance is a very different musical/dance performance. The students' reaction really surprised me. I thought there would be a lot of mixed reviews, but they unanimously loved it! They really appreciated the difficult dance routines, and the diverse music. They loved the "energy" the show generated, and it kept their interest. I think it will take the U.S. by storm when it comes! What a terrific show it was! (12/14/96)

 

From KCoffey374:
I first saw "Riverdance" in London. I think the appeal that will keep this an ongoing show is that it is the mixing of old tradition with "broadway" staging. I have always loved Irish dance and i am so pleased that there is a show that truly celebrates a culture and the history of an art form. (12/19/96)

 

From mkunkel:
I don't think that Riverdance is overrated or underrated. Like so many stage productions, musicals especially, they can be incredible productions, and seemingly overrated to those who know them well, but the recognition may not be there for them.
Personally I feel Riverdance is a one-of-a-kind production to behold. The music is sensational, if it appeals to you, and while the clogging may get monotonous in the aspect that there are only so many ways you can "step," it is interesting and extremely impressive to note the timing in the large ensembles.
I don't think Riverdance will make the splash here in America that it has overseas. I would love to see it live, and will if I get the chance, but on the whole, it's not something that American audiences will appreciate. Not because Americans are dumb, but because it is not something that our cultural avenue makes sensational.
My biggest example of an incredible show that was never really recognized here in the States is Chess. It is arguably the best orchestrated and arranged musical writing of all time, but it's not what American's were looking for in a stage sensation. (12/11/96)

 

From Todd Olson, Boston:
It has been said that if you want to know a country, study the dance of their people.
RIVERDANCE bespeaks the vibrant spirit of a new Irish optimism, all the while managing to shed light on oppressed people throughout the world. By embracing a theme of such magnitude, RIVERDANCE, directed by John McColgan, is an international phenomenon; an extravaganza in the best sense of the word. Sporting scores of dancers, 40 musical instruments, and enough passion to win the Super Bowl many times over, this celebration of mankinds universal language renders most superlatives inadequate. It's a theatrical rarity; an event that must be witnessed simultaneously with the ear, the eye, and the soul.
RIVERDANCE embraces a central theme: the survival of the human spirit, but it is not a concert nor a dance recital. It is an ancient tapestry woven of new fabric: scores of drums at one with a field of dancers, choral chants at one with a multi-media cyclorama, and the traditional dances of the globe at one with a new kind of world music. RIVERDANCE, while sprawling, is a thrilling world somehow able to build a bridge a thousand years old, and end up in the present.
With its Stonehenge-like set and multi-functional cyclorama, Robert Ballagh's RIVERDANCE world is an exciting balance of modern and monolith. Combined with lighting designer Rupert Murray's strobes, Veri-lights, and chase sequences, this magic stage switched instantaneously from night sky to sunrise, from winter to harvest, from cool water to outer space.
The evenings dance is an impressive combination of tribal, jig, ballet, Russian, and tap.
Sometimes stopping our hearts with one move from a single dancer, sometimes a field of dozens of dancers in motion, RIVERDANCE unearths and lifts up the most primal and, dare I say holy reasons why we dance, and synthesizes it with our most social and entertaining reasons why we dance. Be it the sight of one dazzling purple dancer flying out from between carved monolith as if loosed from God, or the riveting 11-man dance "Thunderstorm," it is the dance that pounds us to our core above all other elements in RIVERDANCE.
Crowning the evening was Colin Dunne, a dancer whom Ireland itself proclaimed "The Greatest Male Irish Dancer of All Times." Anyone who has witnessed the blur of his feet, and the near impossible athletic feats he was able to execute with effortlessness, would not disagree. To twist a Moldovian adage, "when Colin Dunne dances, the stage burns."
And if fiddler Eileen Ivers did not steal the evening with her divinely inspired musicianship, she slipped it gently into her back pocket. Providing RIVERDANCE with two of its most breath-taking segments, Ivers exudes a passion rare; a level of committed and trance-inducing performance uncommon from any live performer in any discipline.
Other standouts were 21 year-old principal dancer Eileen Martin, for many years understudy to the legendary Jean Butler. Spanish treasure Maria Pages wowed the audience with her modern flamenco. The image of her standing in silhouette while the staged burned a fire-red, all the while underscored by Des Moores sensuous guitar, will stand as one of the most stunning 90 seconds on Boston stages all year. Tarik Winston and 20 year-old Daniel Wooten, while stuck in a "faux New York" setting, single-footedly lifted the brilliant out of the banal and proved two of the audiences favorite dancers of the evening.
And surely the music composed by Bill Whelan, and the orchestra under the direction of Noel Eccles and Eoghan O'Neill shone as brightly as any star on the stage. This group 11 masters tore through a multi-layered score, employing traditional instruments as often as synthesizers, birthing a new music with a fresh spirit, with just enough of the archaic root to harken 10,000 years. The Enya-ish RIVERDANCE singers, though over echoed giving them a "canned" effect, pulsed through the evening as a candle-lit, calming force.
But not all in RIVERDANCE is perfection. Often the stern Irish attitude became bleak, especially noticeable when soloists broke out in smile, finally relishing in the moment just as the audience was. The sound mix was out of balance, often leaving stunning ankle-breaking tap sequences barely heard. When one a dance happened with no orchestra, the result of finally hearing every earned tap made all at the cavernous Wang Center sit up a little straighter in admiration.
Ivan Thomas, while in rich, soaring voice, seemed thematically out of place, which brings me to the point that I was most disappointed with, and that is RIVERDANCE's agenda to reflect, as Producer Moya Doherty says, "the relationship between oppressed nations or peoples who have suffered" on stage. Doherty's admittal that "we attract a broader audience that way" uncovers in an instant the flaw of this event, which is essentially that RIVERDANCE is at its core an evening of Irish culture, the traditional embracing the new, and has only a tenuous link to the forms outside of Ireland, namely American gospel, tap, Russian, and Spanish, and that link seems only there for ticket-selling reasons.
While the body of the bravura work is Irish to its core, the "coming to America" section seems awkward and sanitized. In one embarrassing "urban world" setting in Act II, in an attempt to project a glimpse of mean streets, the word "pot" and a menacing tic-tac-toe game were spray-painted on a cut out of a brick wall. It was at this point in the evening, in front of a cheesy painted New York skyline, that we saw out first black dancers staged next to a sunglassed saxophone player. It was a sophomoric, even silly view of the American landscape as it pertained to "oppressed people." Further, while Maria Pages performance is gripping, I couldn't help wondering where the solid link was between this Irish event and flamenco. The same could be said for the Russian and the Latin segments.
The fact is RIVERDANCE does Ireland better than anyone, but when they try and bridge their theme to include other countries and cultures, it only falls short and resembles the Up With Peoples of the world. At once, while trying to nobly broaden the base of their thematic reach, RIVERDANCE lessens the impact of its own event.
But with all that, I have to remember that the standing ovation lasted a solid five minutes, and this reviewer clapped in rhythm as wildly as anyone there. RIVERDANCE has become one of the most popular shows on earth, and it is coming back to the Wang Center in August, for which you can buy your tickets today, a full 8 months ahead of time. By September, 1.6 million people will have seen RIVERDANCE - I would get in line now! (3/29/97)

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