Tonys OK Riverdance as Musical; Show May Extend Again

Tony Awards   Tonys OK Riverdance as Musical; Show May Extend Again Tony eligibility as a musical has been conferred on Riverdance -- On Broadway, and the productions main characters, Eileen Marin and Pat Roddy may be considered as "leads," according to the Tony administrative committee.

Tony eligibility as a musical has been conferred on Riverdance -- On Broadway, and the productions main characters, Eileen Marin and Pat Roddy may be considered as "leads," according to the Tony administrative committee.

The news of Tony eligibility reportedly "delighted" theproducers of Riverdance, which has been selling well and recently announced a 10-week extension through Sept. 3.

"I expect that we will be extending well beyond that," a production spokesperson told Playbill On-Line. "The demand is certainly there." While the recent Tony dispensation paves the way for valuable recognition, Riverdance has earned other honors. Most notably, Riverdance composer and lyricist Bill Whelan won the Grammy Award for Best Musical Show album in 1997.

Broadway's brass ring has been elusive for Riverdance, dating back to the show's arrival in America. "It was always the producers' intention to go to Broadway," the show's spokesperson said, "but when the show first came here in 1996, there was no suitably sized theatre available, so it was booked into Radio City. If you recall, the Gershwin was locked in by Garth Drabinsky at the time, so it's taken a couple of years, but we're here."

Despite its unique format, those connected with Riverdance appear happy to be considered along with other Broadway musicals and are revelling in certain familiar theatre award rites: "Tony nominators have been coming to see us, as well as all the Outer Critics Circle people, and the Drama Desk and even the Fred Astaire folks have been in," the spokesperson said. As reported earlier, Riverdance has posted healthy gross receipts and was extended for ten weeks past its original June 25 close date.

Riverdance -- On Broadway, a celebration of Irish music, song and dance, opened March 16 at the Gershwin Theatre. Designed specifically for the Great White Way, Riverdance -- On Broadway began previews March 3.

As reported earlier, Riverdance has enjoyed past engagements in New York in 1996, 1997 and 1998 at Radio City Music Hall.

At the Gershwin, Irish actor Liam Neeson's recorded voice is featured in Riverdance -- On Broadway as he recites the works of W.B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney and Arthur O'Shaughnessy.

Champion dancers Pat Roddy and Eileen Martin are featured among the 80 dancers, musicians and singers who have popularized the show around the world. In addition, Flamenco star Maria Pages, The Lion King's Tsidii Le Loka and Irish singer Brian Kennedy will be joining the production.

Produced by Moya Doherty and directed by John McColgan, Riverdance originated in 1995 at the Point Theatre in Dublin. Production sources indicate that 10 million people have seen Broadway and tour productions and that some 6.5 million videos of the show have been purchased.

Tickets are $25 - $80. The Gershwin Theatre is located at West 50th Street and Eighth Avenue. To order tickets call Ticketmaster (212) 307 4100.

-- By Murdoch McBride