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Story By Andy Argyrakis
The first act kicked off with the stomp-filled romp "Reel Around the Sun," led by the production's colorfully adorned Irish Dance Troupe. From there, The Riverdance Singers showed off their sterling pipes with the emotionally charged "The Heart's Cry," paving the way for additional musicality from an Irish piper and all female ensemble. The show's theme song (appropriately titled "Riverdance") brought the curtain down with a standing ovation thanks to a progressive mixture of indigenous percussion and lightening fast flips and footwork.
The second half was unquestionably ruled by the "Trading Taps" segment, which extended beyond purely Celtic flavors to incorporate two African-American steppers trading a soulful approach with the much less groove oriented Irishmen. Nonetheless, they each learned from one another and eventually united in carefully choreographed harmony. Additional diversity came with a Flamenco soloist and the piece "The Russian Dervish," backed by the Moscow Folk Ballet.
Despite the generally positive viewing experience, attendees hoping for a complex storyline intertwined throughout each selection should best look elsewhere. Granted it's not a traditional Broadway show that follows either a musical or straight play formula, but "Riverdance" sure is thin on plot. Though it's nearly impossible to glean from the performance, the program hints at a look between the primitive and powerful world, tracing ancestors' joy and toil while setting up a place they could call home. Sure, some of the scenes allude to triumph or heartbreak, but it's all up to each viewer's interpretation, many of whom are likely so awed by the steps that the script is far from their minds.
And in the end, it's that overall ability to entertain and enthrall (rather than the skimpy story) that's clearly allowed "Riverdance" to endure. The current touring cast is of the same quality level as the original grouping (even with the absence of long running stars Michael Flatley and Jean Butler), arguably earning an additional breath of fresh air thanks to the new leads Marty Dowds and Melissa Convery, who carried the near concert level experience with grace, power and poise. "Riverdance" runs through Sunday, April 15 at the Auditorium Theatre as part of the Broadway in Chicago series. For ticket information, call 312-902-1400 or log onto www.BroadwayInChicago.com.
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