Riverdance wows Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando!

Riverdance 20th Anniversary Tour

Riverdance – The 20th Anniversary World Tour opened tonight at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts in Orlando and the innovative and exciting blend of dance, music and song wowed the audience judging from the gasps and applause we heard all around us. 

Drawing on its Irish traditions, the combined talents of the performers propel Irish dancing and music into the present day, capturing the imagination of audiences across all ages and cultures. It’s all a far cry from its origins as an interval performance act during the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest, featuring Irish dancing champions Jean Butler and Michael Flatley. 

Not long afterwards, the husband and wife production team John McColgan and Moya Doherty expanded it into a stage show, which opened in Dublin on 9 February 1995. Since then, the show has visited over 450 venues worldwide, played 11,500 performances and been seen by over 25 million people, making it one of the most successful dance productions in the world. Globally it has been seen by over 300 billion people via television and the show also holds the Guinness World Record of the “Longest Riverdance Line,” which featured 1693 participants from 44 countries who danced to Riverdance on a bridge overlooking the River Liffey, led by Butler and Padraic Moyles.

The show can be seen in Orlando through to Sunday 28th January and has a great set design by Robert Ballagh, lighting design by John Comiskey, costume design by Joan Bergin and sound design by Michael O’Gorman. The concoction keeps the viewer enthralled as the constant fast pace action moves along at a swift pace.

Riverdance is rooted in a three-part suite of baroque-influenced traditional music called Timedance composed, recorded and performed for the 1981 Eurovision Song Contest, which was hosted by Ireland. At the time, Bill Whelan and Dónal Lunny composed the music, augmenting the Irish folk band Planxty with a rock rhythm section of electric bass and drums and a four-piece horn section. The piece was performed, with accompanying ballet dancers, during the interval of the contest, and later released as a Planxty single. Whelan had also produced EastWind, a 1992 album by Planxty member Andy Irvine with Davy Spillane, which fused Irish and Balkan folk music and influenced the genesis of Riverdance. Thirteen years later, Whelan was invited to do the intermission piece for another Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin, and composed Riverdance. In a book about Planxty (The Humours of Planxty, by Leagues O’Toole), Whelan says, “It was no mistake of mine to call it Riverdance because it connected absolutely to Timedance”

Riverdance was first performed during the seven-minute interval of the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest at the Point Theatre in Dublin on 30 April 1994. The performance was transmitted to an estimated 300 million viewers worldwide and earned a standing ovation from the packed theatre of 4,000 people. The performance is often considered the most well known interval act in Eurovision Song Contest history.

After witnessing the initial enthusiasm for the performance in Ireland, husband and wife production team Doherty and McColgan decided to take a risk. The two invested their own money in the show, well over $1 million and ran with the idea, marketing it throughout the country.

On 2 October 1996, Riverdance kicked off its first US tour at Radio City Music Hall, christening their new US company the Lee (after Cork’s main river), while the company continuing to perform in the UK was dubbed the Liffey (after Dublin’s main river). After 23 performances at Radio City between 2 October and 20 October, the Lee company moved on to Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston, Detroit and Minneapolis where it was well received.

The show’s opening number is “Reel Around The Sun” followed by “The Heart’s Cry”, The Countess Cathleen and six other acts before closing for the interval with the ever popular “Riverdance.” Act One lasts around 45 minutes and after a 15 minute intermission it restarts with “American Wake”, Heal Their Hearts – Freedom, the superb Trading Taps, the wonderful Macedonian Morning The Russian Dervish, Andalucia, Anna Livia, Slow Air & Tunes, Heartland and concludes with an outstanding finale.

Being hyper critical, and it’s really difficult to be that, there are moments when you wish the LED screen behind the performers could just be turned off so as not to distract the viewers eyes while the mesmerising tap plays out.

It’s a minor point though as the cast puts in a momentous performance with principals Maggie Darlington, Amy-Mae Dolan, Ciara Sexton, Will Bryant, Kieran Hardiman and Jason O’Neill leading the way.

As far as we’re concerned, the show is a must see this weekend. The show will play a strictly limited engagement at the art center’s Walt Disney Theater for 5 performances in total. Yes, there’s a lot going on with the ProBowl and many other events in Central Florida but in our view, this is the one to put your money on. You won’t regret it.

Tickets start at $34.25 and may be purchased online at drphillipscenter.org, by calling 844.513.2014 or by visiting the Dr. Phillips Center Box Office at 445 S. Magnolia Avenue, Orlando, FL 32801 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, or 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday. Online and phone ticket purchases are subject to handling fees.



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