March 10, 2011
STEPHEN BEVIS, The West Australian
Riverdance: The Farewell Tour – Burswood Theatre, Perth WA
They say imitation is the highest form of flattery – which must make Riverdance one of the most admired shows in recent showbiz memory.
When the music-and-dance spectacular burst out of Ireland 17 years ago, it not only made a star of original choreographer-dancer Michael Flatley (and his $50 million legs); it also unleashed a shamrock entertainment revolution led by such imitators as Magic of the Dance, Rhythm of the Dance, The Rhythms of Ireland, Ragus, Spirit of the Dance, Gael Force – and Flatley’s own Lord of the Dance.
But the original remains the best, according to more than 22 million people who have seen Riverdance since it began life in Dublin as a seven-minute interval act at the Eurovision Song Contest in April 1994.
Produced and directed by husband and wife team John McColgan and Moya Doherty, it dared to be audaciously different. It filled theatres and emptied pockets across the globe by giving new freedom to the energetic, tattoo-like precision of Irish step dancing and traditional Celtic music and song through modern design, lighting and Bill Whelan’s contemporary score.
This production, as the title says, could well be the last Australian tour for a show which first electrified Perth audiences at the Perth Entertainment Centre in 1997. It has to be said that the format is showing its age, although new lands such as China still remain to be brought under its Celtic spell.
Padraic Moyles and Maria Buffini have stepped into the shoes worn by original lead dancers Flatley and Jean Butler. They are charismatic and talented and lead a company of 22 dancers, eight singers and a live band through 19 set pieces and nearly as many costume changes.
The accompaniment comes largely from a four-piece ensemble led by the finesse and power of drummer and music director Guy Rickarby, who performed with Niamh Fahy on the fiddle, Toby Kelly on saxophone and Eamonn Galldubh playing a range of traditional instruments. Lacking, to my mind, was the guitar, which can be heard prominently in the pre-recorded backing track which supports the on-stage players.
People who may not have seen Riverdance before may be surprised by the other dance forms highlighted here, united by the same aggression and power which underpins the thunderous, rapid-fire footwork of the male Irish dancers.
Flamenco dancer Rocio Montoya appears twice – in a steamy solo and in a fire-and-ice number with some male dancers giving the impression of a sultry stable mistress taming four hoof-stomping Irish stallions
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Riverdance makes a thunderous return
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