Category: Archive

New & Noteworthy Riverdance marks a year on B’way

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Eileen Murphy

Attention, mad scientists: if you can iron all the bugs out of that human cloning thing by next St. Patrick’s Day, put us down for five replicas. This way, we’ll be able to take part in all of the holiday festivities AND get bit of sleep at the same time.

After spending the last couple of weeks getting ready for the big day, we were ready to party. To kick off the weekend, we caught the first-year anniversary performance of "Riverdance: On Broadway" at the Gershwin Theater on, well, Broadway.

The house was packed to the rafters, and the audience seemed split between Irish Americans getting an early start on St. Patrick’s Day and tourists just hoping to see some good dancing. They weren’t disappointed; the show was fabulous, as always.

We hadn’t seen it since the Broadway premiere, and were surprised at the number of changes: principal dancer Pat Roddy’s role has expanded (yay!) and the singing intervals are tighter and more focused. Eileen Martin seems to float on air, and the rest of the dance troupe is young and beautiful and extremely energetic.

The cast party was held after the show at Rosie O’Grady’s Manhattan Club. We got there early, and got in a few words with Grammy-winning "Riverdance" composer Bill Whelan. He’s working on a musical at the moment, which will make its way to Broadway in the near future.

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"Or it could open in London, or maybe Canada," Whelan said. "It depends on where the investors are." This from the man with the Midas touch.

Taking over the featured singer role from Brian Kennedy is the talented and very charming Michael Londra. Blue eyes, dark hair, cute Wexford accent – the guy has got it going on, girlfriends, as they say on the Ricki Lake show.

"I’m from Wexford," he said, when we attempted to place his accent.

"You don’t actually meet a lot of people from my part of the country out here," he continued. "Do you know Pierce Turner?"

We do, indeed. And Larry Kirwan of Black 47. And Anthony Kearns of the Irish Tenors. Was everyone in Wexford a singer? we asked.

Londra laughed.

"Of course," he said. "The county’s filled with them."

The dancers trouped in (no pun intended) all of a sudden, it seemed – in a flash, the room was filled with gorgeous twentysomethings. The guys all looked like they stepped out of a GAP ad, while the girls were straight from the pages of Glamour: all bare little tops, tight skirts, high heels and masses of long hair. (Does no one wear a shirt with a back to it anymore? Or are we just jealous?)

The exception to this was Eileen Martin, who looked very sophisticated in a black and white checked top and high-waisted black trousers, hair pulled back into a chic bun.

Martin was thrilled to mark a full year on the Great White Way.

"It’s fantastic, isn’t it?" she exclaimed. "I swear, I never thought I’d be in a Broadway show, back when I was a little girl taking stepdancing lessons."

So, how’s New York treating you? we wondered.

"I love it here!" she said. "I’m never leaving! The excitement of the city, the energy! I feel like I belong here, like it was meant to be."

This was our opportunity to ask the question that’s been burning in our mind since "Riverdance" made its debut at Eurovision six years ago, the question that keeps us up at night, the question that plagues scientists and scholars and entertainment writers throughout the world: Do you have to have long hair to be a "Riverdancer"?

"Actually, you do," confirmed Eileen.

Aha! We knew it!

"Of course," she added, "it’s not like they wouldn’t take someone who was talented, just because she had short hair . . . "

We could hear a "but" coming . . .

"But she’d be encouraged to let it grow if she got into the show," finished Martin.

Principal dancer Pat Roddy has certainly grown into what many people used to refer to as the "Michael Flatley" role. Blond, handsome, with blue eyes and dimples in his cheeks deep enough to hide a grapefruit in, Roddy is almost bashful when we compliment him on his dancing. He’s that rarest of all birds: a performer unaffected by stardom.

Ask him about his golf game, though, and it’s another matter completely.

"My golf game has definitely improved," he said proudly.

Our journalistic instincts kicked in immediately. How good? we wondered.

"Well . . ." he hedged.

Come on, tell us.

"It’s better than a year ago," he said. The tease.

Come on, tell us. Tell, tell, tell. We’ll keep it a secret. (Sort of.)

"I can break 90 – with some consistency," he answered.

We know nothing about golf, but he looked happy, so apparently, this was good. We made appropriately impressed sounds.

Another topic that makes Roddy light up is his impending wedding. The dancer and his fiancée, Helena Dixon, will tie the knot in Ireland this summer.

"I’m really looking forward to getting married," he said happily. (Yes, girls, the good ones are always taken.)

So what’s your regular routine on a show day? we asked.

"I have a massage at 5:20 p.m. every day," he said. "Then I do warm ups before the performance."

[Note to self: work massage into department budget.]


fast facts

€ 12 million people around the world have seen Riverdance in some form.

€ To date, 7 million Riverdance videos have been sold.

€ Each dancer performs approximately 10,000 steps per show.

€ The show utilizes 363,250 watts of electricity each night – just for lighting.

Saint Patrick’s Weekend: A diary

Let the Music Play

Slept four hours, then dragged weary body onto the train for the journey in to work. Got through the day somehow (must learn to drink, since hangovers seem to keep people awake). First stop: The Corrs and Brian Kennedy at Radio City Music Hall. Huge crowd – respectable looking, except for the woman with the shamrock antennas sticking out of her head (don’t ask). On the gorgeous-o-meter, having the Corr siblings and Kennedy in the same place at once sent the needle right off the scale. Oh, and they all sing nice, too.

Headed over to the Roseland Ballroom (and may the Good Lord smite the smart arsed stranger who told us it was on 59th Street instead of 52nd Street). The place was jammed with sweaty, dancing people as the Galway band belted out hit after hit, including "The Green and Red of Mayo" and "N-17." Great set, but Davey, Leo, et. al.: did we miss "I Useta Lover"?

Ran into an old friend from the Bainbridge Avenue days. After the hellos and how-are-yas, he put his arm around our shoulder, looked deep into our eyes and said, "No more picking on Sinead O’Connor. That’s my girl." Sheesh – everyone’s a critic.

Followed the crowd over to Connolly’s on 47th Street for a bit of rebel hip-hop in the form of Seanchai and Unity Squad. Really, you can’t say you’ve lived until you’ve danced to the regg’ version of "The Fields of Athenry." Friday being the eve of the big day, St. Patrick himself showed up (hey, the guy had a white beard, a hat and a staff) and singer Rachel Fitzgerald led the crowd in singing "Happy Birthday" to him. Somebody, quick – give that girl a record deal.

After the show, we said a quick hello to Seanchai Chris Byrne. DJ Flo had already started spinning records, and the music was really loud, so we smiled at each other rather maniacally and shouted some small talk, which neither one of us could hear.

More smiles. Chris shouted something. A break in the music. Didn’t catch the last thing he said.

"I’m bursting," he repeated.

Oh. Catch ya later . . .

Breakfast at the Waldorf

Three hours of sleep (isn’t this how they brainwash people?) and it’s time to get up and face the day. Each drop of water from the shower bangs us on the head like a ball peen hammer.

First stop: the governor’s breakfast at the Waldorf Astoria. Arrived in time for the speeches (goody!) and a bagel, which we stared at longingly while standing at attention for the national anthems. Rusty Magee of the Irish Rep played the piano while Ciaran Sheehan sang. After the first verse, forgot about the bagel – Sheehan’s tenor is magical.

Jim Ryan of "Good Day New York" emceed and kept things moving along nicely. Former New York Mayor Ed Koch was on hand ("the city’s most famous Irishman," Ryan deadpanned) as was Al Smith IV (talk about tradition) and a host of other luminaries. Gov. Pataki was his affable self, gave a nice, short speech, reminisced about traveling to Ireland and gave props to his mother’s family, the Lynches.

Ran into former IIRM co-founder (and former Echo colleague) Pat Hurley and his wife, Mary, at the breakfast. In between catching up on old times and old friends, we demanded to see pictures of their kids (two beautiful little boys). Pat wore a vintage IIRM badge on his navy suit, an ’80s retro touch that made us feel pretty nostalgic. Hey, can rubber bracelets and shoulder pads be far behind (no, not on Pat).

O’Neill’s Pub was the next stop, since Pat and Mary had some time to kill before marching with County Cork (they could check the meeting time in the handy Echo parade guide, natch). The place was already packed, and each time a group finished their meal, the table and chairs would be carried out to a truck across the street.

"It’ll give everyone a bit more room," laughed publican Ciaran Staunton.

Attorney Sean Downes was on hand to pick up a friend’s kids: his brief for the day was babysitting. He said he’d be watching the parade from the reviewing stand with his daughters and their friends, and hoped the rain would hold off.

"I don’t think the kids will want to sit in the rain," he said with a hopeful glance at the sky.

We headed up Madison Avenue, enjoying the sights and the sounds unique to St. Patrick’s day in NYC: cops in kilts, firemen in kilts, pipers in kilts . . . well, you get the idea. Felt a bit under-embellished without a shamrock sticker on our check or a green scarf around our neck, but figured our green socks were statement enough.

Some observations: The sheep in Ireland must be freezing their arses off these days, since they can’t possibly have a strand of wool left on them. Of the two million people on Fifth Avenue, 1.9 had to be wearing some combination of Aran sweaters and tweed caps.

You’re on the air

Tout le monde and his brother make their way to the offices of Adrian Flannelly’s Irish radio show for his annual St. Patrick’s Day marathon. Like the swallows returning to Capistrano, politicians, performers, parade people and press (how’s that for alliteration?) flock to the party to see and be seen.

We’ve always had a sneaking suspicion that Mayor Giuliani waited until we got there to make his entrance, and this year was no exception. Flanked by bodyguards, and natty in a Yankees cap, the mayor swept into the studio and chatted amiably on air with Flannelly and his co-host, John Dearie.

We missed the entrance of the grand marshal, Ed Malloy, but we were in time to watch Gov. Pataki (hey, didn’t we see him at breakfast?) arrive for his interview. A few impressions: he’s very tall, much younger looking in person, and has the world’s biggest bodyguards.

Caught up on all the news with public relations maven John Mooney, whose biggest scoop was about two feet tall and chewing on his hand: his 8-month old son, Reagan. Charismatic doesn’t begin to describe this kid, whose ready smile, gurgling laugh and habit of grabbing onlookers by the cheek point to a bright future in p.r.

Irish acting legend Milo O’Shea was on hand, and held Reagan as he chatted about his upcoming film, "Puckoon," based on the Spike Milligan novel. He also told a funny theater story.

"Years ago," he said, "I was performing in a play called ‘The Comedian.’ Ted Danson was my understudy, if you can believe it – we look so much alike," he noted dryly.

"I remember him asking me to coach him on an Irish accent," he said. "It was for a television show, where he would play an Irish bartender.

"He was doing this very broad, diddly-aye accent," O’Shea continued. "I told him it was terrible – that he should read for the part without putting on the accent. He was worried about doing it, but I told him if he got the part, he could work on the accent later."

Danson auditioned and won the part – of Sam Malone, the owner of a little Boston bar called "Cheers.’

The moral of the story? Trust Milo, kids. He knows.

The green mile (or two)

After leaving the Flannelly party, we decided to catch a bit of the parade. Found ourselves completely surrounded by cute firemen on their way to church (that’s what they said) after marching up the Avenue. Couldn’t work up the courage to ask what, exactly, they had on under their kilts.

At 45th Street and Park Avenue, we passed some members of the Cullen Pipe band from Cork, who were marching with the United Irish Counties. We asked drummer Collette O’Connor what kilt wearers kept in their sporrans (those bags they wear around their waists. Lipstick? Sunscreen? A map?

"Beer money!" she crowed.


Friday, March 23

Big Music returns: The Waterboys at The Roxy. Mike Scott and the ‘Boys regroup to play some of their biggest hits. All we know is, we’d better hear "Fisherman’s Blues" or someone’s gonna lose their trademark cap (are you listening, Mikey?). Call (212) 777-1224.

Lend us a tenor: Anthony Kearns in Staten Island. The youngest of the phenomenally successful Irish tenors will bring his talents to the Michael J. Petrides Complex in a benefit for the St. Mary of the Assumption R.C. Church. That voice will take you home again, Kathleen. Call (718) 442-6372.

Saturday, March 24

Ladies’ Night: Karan Casey and Sharon Shannon in concert. Casey, the ex-lead singer of Solas and trad whiz Shannon team up for a show guaranteed to blow the roof off the Somerville Theater in Massachusetts. Call (617) 625-5700.

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