Review: Riverdance (Broadway in Chicago)

| March 14, 2012
Riverdance - Broadway in Chicago, John Hartin'       

Created by Bill Whelan  
Directed by John McColgan
Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph  (map)
thru March 18  |  tickets: $30-$85   |  more info
Check for half-price tickets 
        Read entire review


‘Riverdance’ transfixes as a visual stunner!


A scene from Broadway in Chicago's "Riverdance" at the Oriental Theatre. (photo credit: Jack Hartin)

Moya Doherty i/a/w Broadway in Chicago presents

Review by Katy Walsh 

I’ve always celebrated St. Patrick’s Day.  I’m Irish but who isn’t in March?  Chicago knows how to celebrate our Irish roots.  We dye the river green.  We throw *two* parades.  And every bar turns Irish pub for March 17th and/or the Saturday before/after.  Even as my friends get older, we still love to get out in that revelry!  But as we age, it’s not about waiting in line for the best bash, it’s about selecting a place where we can sit and watch some Irish dancing.     

A scene from Broadway in Chicago's "Riverdance" at the Oriental Theatre. (photo credit: Jack Hartin)Broadway in Chicago presents Riverdance for a limited and finale performance.  After 15 years of production, 10,000 performances, 14,000 dance shoes, Riverdance will close forever on June 12, 2012.   Chicago is one of the final stops on its three year farewell tour.  Having only seen glimpses of it on television, I was excited to finally experience the phenomena before its reign ended.  Riverdance transfixes as a visual stunner!  The riversinging, riverfiddling, rivertheatrics… not so much.

At it’s very best, Riverdance has one, two, eight or twenty-four dancers kicking it up on the stage.  Their primary movements are a cross between ballet and tap… with the tap more of a clomp.  The synchronized stiff body action looks effortless and amazing.  Watching a soloist break out and glide across the floor is mesmerizing.  The dancer looks to be gracefully running but instead of kicking legs backwards, he is kicking legs frontward.  The illusion is spectacularly grand!  But unfortunately, the dancing is only about 1/3 of the show.

Riverdance splits performance time like a television variety show.  The dancing showcases extraordinary feats of physicality.  And then it halts.  Choral-like singing or fiddling take the spotlight with equal timeslots.  These segments are perfectly good in their performances but I came for “RiverDANCING.”  These intermittent moments kill my dance buzz.  They also feel a little dated and contrived.  It doesn’t help that a voiceover narration regularly interjects a description of nature.  The audio is accompanied by dry ice smoke and a visual backdrop.  The dramatics are less new-age-wondrous and more theatrical-silly.  Bring back the dancers!

Riverdance has been seen live by 22 million people plus one!  I’m glad I had the opportunity to see these legendary dancers.  The experience was unforgettable. I just wasn’t so keen on the other show counterparts.  But I guess it’s like St. Patrick’s Day in Chicago – I might have to wait in a line or put up with drunk buffoonery to see Irish dancers.  And the dancers will always be the most memorable part of the celebration.

Rating: ★★½

Riverdance continues through March 18th at Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph (map).  Tickets are $30-$85, and are available by phone (800-775-2000) or online at (check for half-price tickets at More information at (Running time: 2 hours, includes an intermission)

A scene from Broadway in Chicago's "Riverdance" at the Oriental Theatre. (photo credit: Jack Hartin) A scene from Broadway in Chicago's "Riverdance" at the Oriental Theatre. (photo credit: Jack Hartin)
A scene from Broadway in Chicago's "Riverdance" at the Oriental Theatre. (photo credit: Jack Hartin) A scene from Broadway in Chicago's "Riverdance" at the Oriental Theatre. (photo credit: Jack Hartin)

Photos by Jack Hartin




Caterina Coyne, Alana Mallon, Chloey Turner, James Greenan, Padraic Moyles, Jason O’Neill (principal dancers); Maeve Croke (dance captain); Jessica Baffa, Patrick Barnett, Stephen Brennan, Shane Cummins, Maggie Darlington, Nicola Dempsey, Aisling Drennan, Maeve Fearon, John Grimes, Billy Kanaly, James Keating, Fiona McCabe, Nicole McKeever, Niamh O’Connor, Andrew O’Reilly, Brian Shinners, Lauren Smyth, Kincaid Stringer (Irish dance troupe); Marita Martinez-Rey (flamenco); Michael E. Wood (freedom soloist); Michael E. Wood, Jason E. Bernard (tappers)


Declan Masterson (Keyboard/Musical Director), Mark Alfred (Drums/Percussion/Bodhrán), Matt Bashford (Uilleann Pipes/Low Whistle/Tin Whistle), Rose Duffy (Fiddle), Dave McGauren (Saxophone)

behind the scenes

Bill Whelan (composer); Moya Doherty (producer); John McColgan (director); Julian Erskine (senior executive producer); Robert Ballagh (set design); Joan Bergin (costumes); Michael O’Gorman (sound designer); Benjamin Pearcy (lighting); Jack Hartin (photos)

3words: From the same Waterford County clan, my cousin Jenny describes it with ‘loved the dancing.’


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Category: 2012 Reviews, Broadway in Chicago, Katy Walsh, National Tours, Oriental Theatre (Ford)

Comments (2)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. bob says:

    Ok, if you like a multicultural celebration.
    I attended the March 26, 2016, 2:00pm performance of Riverdance at the State Theatre in Minneapolis MN, USA. First off it was too loud. The State Theatre in Minneapolis is glorious venue but too small for the high volume.
    Riverdance was originally represented as modernized Irish cultural dance and music. Thankfully the majority of the performance I saw was based on traditional Irish dance and music. The other reviews can describe the grandeur of the Irish part of the performance.

    For the heart of Irish heritage come to the world’s largest Irish fair outside of Ireland in Saint Paul Minnesota. The local Irish dance schools present Irish dancing during the entire three days. Wonderful traditional music and history and storytelling. If you cannot get there at least visit the web page of The Saint Patrick Visitor Centre in north Ireland. Click “Exhibition” and click “Historical Notes”.

    Or at the very least do a search for and take twenty minutes to read “The Confession of St. Patrick”.

    This Riverdance multicultural celebration included dance from Spain, Russia and Africa. The music for Spanish and Russian dance had embedded Celtic music. Unquestionably entertaining but not culturally authentic. A man of African descent sang a lament implying the African slave trade. We must remember that slavery was multicultural. Irish slaves came to the Americas before African slaves. In the book “White Cargo” Jordan & Walsh document that the Irish slave trade depleted the population of Ireland from about 1,500,000 to 600,000 in one single decade from 1641 to 1652. African slave trade was just beginning. Irish slaves cost less so were treated with more brutality.

    Let’s not forget the Barbary pirates. Wikipedia admits Barbary pirate slave trade went “as far north as Iceland” and “The main purpose of their attacks was to capture Christian slaves for the Ottoman slave trade as well as the general Arabic market in North Africa”. What that really means is capturing girls for harems in North Africa. So in other words the female ancestors of the Riverdance girls were captured, put on display without clothing in a slave market, ending in harems to live out their lives “servicing” their Islamic captors till they die of venereal diseases from their captors. The Irish white skin and light hair earned a high price for the Barbary pirates. The current Princess Lalla Salma of Morocco (Africa), who is native Moroccan, has the unmistakable Irish red hair.
    So if we are to lament African slavery we must also lament Irish slavery.

    Irish Heritage links

    Saint Patrick Centre

    The Confession of St. Patrick

    CELT, the Corpus of Electronic Texts – Irish literary and historical culture to you on the Internet

    Celtic Folklore

    Largest Irish Fair outside of Ireland

    The Center for Irish Music

  2. […] had the opportunity to see the farewell tour of Riverdance in 2012. And last night, I watched the resurrected Irish crew back in our city for their 20th Anniversary […]