By Eileen Murphy
That booming rat-a-tat-tat noise you’ll be hearing every night for the next three weeks, followed by shouts, whistles and thunderous slapping of hand against hand, are no cause for alarm. It’s just everybody’s favorite international Celtic phenomenon, “Riverdance,” in its triumphant return to New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
Like any self-respecting Riverfanatic, we’ve seen the show many times, and are happy to report that producer Moya Doherty and director John McColgan have kept the show fresh and lively — there’s something new each time we see it.
This time around, the something new is the talented and handsome Pat Roddy in the role of principal male dancer. Roddy has been with the troupe since RD’s 1995 premiere in Dublin’s Point Depot, and is more than able to fill Colin Dunne’s clog heel shoes. The Dundalk native, whose parents are both Irish dancing teachers, looks great opposite the female lead, Eileen Martin.
Also new this go-round is the fabulous “Trading Taps” number, where Irish and African-American dancers show off their steps in friendly rivalry. The addition of a woman in the number softens the mucho macho feel, and the dancing is truly spectacular. Truth be told — if it’s a rivalry, we’re on the side of the guys who do the splits and backflips (and they’re not wearing clogs).
Oh, we could go on and on about the show — Eileen Ivers was as delightful as ever, snapping fiddle strings, stomping her feet and getting the crowd going with her instrumental solos. Her duet with Maria Pages — who’s not just a fabulous dancer but also a cool castanetas player — is worth the price of admission. Charles Gray’s gospel-inspired take on the second act’s opener, “Heal Their Hearts,” makes the song come to life more vividly than we’ve ever heard it. Though we’re still not too fond of the Russian dancers — a little too gymnastic for our taste — the dancers were impressive. And in the midst of all, the one thing that has not changed is the beautiful, original “Riverdance” number, which closes the first half of the show. Hard to believe that’s where it all started, but from little acorns do mighty oaks grow, or something like that.
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The opening night party was quite elegant and lots of fun, and not just because there were all around waiters offering us chicken on a stick and sundried tomato-and-goat-cheese napoleons. The cast arrived in dribs and drabs, all looking young, hip, attractive and not in the least bit tired after their exertions. Some observations: Pat Roddy’s even better looking offstage (we’re resisting the urge to use gushy words like cute); Maria Pages has surprisingly long, surprisingly auburn hair. More people flocked to composer Bill Whelan (who also composed the music for the upcoming Meryl Streep movie, “Dancing at Lughnasa”) than to O.J. lawyer Barry Scheck, who came to the show with a friend.
“Riverdance” ticket giveaway winners Well, we kept the contest open as long as humanly possible just to give everyone a chance to enter. Five lucky winners, all of whom have been notified by phone, are on their way to see “Riverdance” tonight. For everyone else, thanks for entering, and really, you were all so clever, it was almost impossible to choose . . .
Winners: Tom & Diane Jensen, Bushkill, Pa.; Phil Connolly, Yonkers; Adrienne Carey, Hamden, Conn.; Connie von Hundertmark, Flushing; Bruce Deegan, North Branford, Conn.
Really, we’ve got to work on being in the right place at the right time. After all, we’ve spent the past few weeks gushing on and on about Pierce Brosnan, his new movie projects, his great cheekbones, etc., so, of course, we’re home darning socks on the night he stops by the Irish Repertory Theater, which is just a few short blocks away from the office.
Brosnan, and his significant other, Keely Shay Smith, dropped by the Rep to catch the hit show “The Irish . . .And How They Got That Way.” The Frank McCourt show, which began life as a one-shot benefit for the Rep a couple of years ago, has proved incredibly popular for the theater company. And we’re assuming it left the current Mr. Bond shaken . . . and stirred.