After over 15 years of touring the US, Riverdance has truly become a household name. When someone sees Irish dancing, it is most likely the first thing that comes to their head. But as they say, all good things must come to an end. Last night at the Fabulous Fox Theatre marked the start of the Riverdance Farewell tour in St. Louis.
I have always been a fan of dance, but somehow avoided ever seeing Riverdance much to my chagrin. Sure, I’ve seen performances of the famous show on television and DVD – but never in person, and never at the Fabulous Fox. And one thing I can now say for certain is that there is nothing like seeing it live at one of the best theaters in the country. As the show starts, the beautiful Irish music fills the massive auditorium, taking us on a transformational journey to Ireland. A bright and colorful screen takes center stage for the duration of the performance, changing from scene to scene as it sets the mood and season for each breathtaking dance.
The show is a wonderful amalgamation of music, dance and song. Of course the dancing is the main attraction of the show, being called Riverdance after all, but without the rich traditional music it would be nowhere near as impactful.
The band is comprised of only 5 musicians, but their talent is relentless as each of them resonates powerful and rich music through multiple instruments. Much credit should be given to Declan Masterson, who plays the keyboard and acts as musical director for the show. Each song sets the scene for the dance that follows, and sends the kind of feeling through your body that powerful music tends to do. Matt Bashford, who plays a beautiful rendition of “Caoineadh Chu Chulainn” on the Uilleann Pipes, also plays the low whistle and tin whistle. Niamh Ní Charra plays the fiddle, having a couple of solo performances that are truly outstanding, while Dave McGauran plays the saxophone during the show. Last but not least, Mark Alfred is at the helm of the percussion section and takes over the stage as he plays every drum, symbol and chime. His drum kit seems endless as sound after sound emanates from his side of the stage. He also has an incredible solo session with the Bodhrán, a round Irish frame drum, where you wouldn’t believe the magnitude and range of sound that comes out of it.
As impressive as the music of the show is, the singing is just as wonderful. Songs like “The Heart’s Cry” and “Cloudsong” are so heart-touching and beautiful that you just can’t help but to feel the emotion in the air. The lead vocalist from the Irish Dance Troupe, Aisling Drennan, was phenomenal. Every note left her mouth with what seemed to be perfection and ease. I have heard many versions of the songs from Riverdance, but none of them were sung as beautifully as I heard them last night. All of the male and female singers harmonized together in such unison, transforming their voices into their own rich instruments.
The lead male and female dancers, James Greenan and Alana Mallon, were both superb. Neither of them ever missed a step as they meticulously hit every note that resonated from their shoes hitting the stage. James has to have some of the fastest legs I have ever seen, and proves it during a “dance-off” so to speak with two less-traditional tappers: Benjamin Mapp & Jason E. Bernard. Mapp and Bernard furiously hold their own as they dance in a free style version of tap, and it is quite a site to see. Alana Mallon dances beautifully throughout the performance, and commands the lead with her presence.
Marita Martinez-Rey dances Flamenco and does a brilliant job during the “Firedance” and “Andalucia,” two solo performances. Her fire-colored dresses wave through the air like flames as they match the firery background and music during the dances.
If you have never seen Riverdance before, don’t miss your last chance to see it on tour. I am certainly glad that I was able to see it. The show is full of so much energy and passion, and you can tell that these dancers are among the best of the best. Every step is in perfect unison, as it partners with the lively music and song. It’s different than any other show you’ve seen before, and if you love dance, I’m sure that it will not dissapoint.
RIVERDANCE is playing the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis from May 18 to May 20, 2012! Performances are Fri. May 18 at 8pm, Sat. May 19 at 2 & 8pm, and Sun. May 20 at 1 & 5:30pm. Running Time is 2 hrs, 10 min and tickets range from $26 to $70. Purchase tickets at Metrotix, or visit the Fabulous Fox website for more details.