‘Riverdance’ just keeps on coming

Ed Forry

Last fall, when Rachel Kelly brought the inaugural iFest to Boston, she featured a group of about thirty dancers, and another eight musicians from the Riverdance troupe. That “Riverdance” performance here last September was a huge audience favorite, and a real showstopper.

On the elaborate outdoor stage at the Seaport World Trade Center, their 25-minute condensed version of the show featured live dancing and music, synchronized with video moments from the various performances from around the world.

The original “Riverdance” was actually a short “interval act” designed for the television broadcast of the 1994 Eurovision song competition, which was staged in Dublin. To everyone’s surprise, the Bill Whelan music, when blended with the dancing of Americans Michael Flatley and Jean Butler, electrified the huge television audience and won the hearts of many.

The following year, Whelan teamed with producer Moya Doherty to mount a full length, critically acclaimed theatrical production that premiered in Dublin and London and eventually crossed the Atlantic for shows in New York, Boston, and other American cities. That year, the show began a 16-year, non-stop tour by Riverdance companies, later expanded to South America, Oceania, South Africa, Europe and Asia, playing before 25 million people at some 465 venues in 46 countries across 6 continents.

Most recently, the show played Cuina, where a review in the Guangzou Daily heaped praise: “Excellence beyond compare … majestic unshackled emotion … the audience was teeming with passion, so much that some audience members were even dancing in the aisles.”

It has been several years since the full stage show has been seen in North America. Now this year, Doherty and her company have announced plans to mount a 20th anniversary World Tour, making stops in some 60 cities in United States and Canada during the 2015/2016 season, beginning in October in Calgary.

The press announcement said the show has some new features: “The 20th Anniversary World Tour, composed by Bill Whelan, produced by Moya Doherty and directed by John McColgan, is currently celebrating a sold out, critically acclaimed run across Europe and Asia and will arrive in North America in fall 2015.  To mark the eagerly awaited return of the show to North America, ending a four-year absence, “Riverdance – The 20th Anniversary World Tour” – will feature new costumes, new lighting, new projections and the addition of a brand new number, ‘Anna Livia,’ featuring the female members of the Irish dance troupe in an a capella hard-shoe number. The tour has set design by Robert Ballagh, lighting design by John Comiskey, costume design by Joan Bergin, and sound design by Michael O’Gorman.”

“The success of “Riverdance” across the whole world has gone beyond our wildest dreams,” said Doherty. “The fact that the show continues to draw and excite audiences is a tribute to every dancer, singer, musician, staff and crew member who have dedicated themselves to the show. This 20th Anniversary Tour is a thank you to our audiences and a celebration of what has been an incredible journey across two decades.”

At press time, news about negotiations for a Boston venue and performance dates was not available.