You know you want you some Riverdance: In the opening "Reel Around the Sun," the stage throbs with a kind of orgiastic splendor.
Some musicals continue to tour long after they've worn out their welcome. The orchestra grows thinner on each repeat visit, and the productions seem a little further removed from our initial memories. But I would expect Riverdance, which returns to the Fox
this weekend for five performances between Friday and Sunday in what is being billed as the "farewell performances," to evoke its full frenzy.
First developed in 1994 as a seven-minute interlude to showcase Irish musicians, dancers and singers while the judges' votes were being tallied on the Eurovision Song Contest
(think American Idol
), the piece was such an instant success that it quickly grew into a full evening. The expanded piece premiered in 1995 in Dublin. But Riverdance
earned its designation as an international phenomenon when it traveled to New York City and played Radio City Music Hall in March 1996. From that time on, the journey has never stopped.Riverdance
is very much composer Bill Whelan's triumph.
His initial concept was to evoke the life of a river (probably the
Shannon, which bisects much of Ireland) from its source until it rushed
out to sea at the estuary. But as the piece filled out, Whelan added
songs that praise the earth, sun, fire and the moon -- elemental forces
to which people everywhere can respond. The show also tells the history
of Ireland. A number like "American Wake" visualizes how poverty and
famine forced millions of Irish to emigrate to the United States in the
But audiences don't attend Riverdance
for the history. We cannot
overlook how sensual the piece is. For as long as anyone can remember,
the national Irish dance was a kind of clog that, in its insistence on
keeping the upper body immobile, seemed to suppress sensuality. But in
composer Whelan introduced sensuality to Irish music. "The
Irish have very often separated sex and spirituality as if they were
unable to co-exist in one human being," Whelan once said. "I am
strongly of the view that a spirituality without sexuality is arid.
Sensuality is what much of the work is about." And indeed, in numbers
like the title song and the opening "Reel Around the Sun," the stage
throbs with a kind of orgiastic splendor.
This weekend also marks the final opportunity to see Woyzeck
Upstream Theater. Georg Buchner's unfinished tragedy has been adapted
by director Philip Boehm, who has assembled an impressive cast
comprising some of St. Louis' finest actors.
Finally, this is your last chance to see Colleen Backer's satin-smooth
performance in The Good Times are Killing Me
at Mustard Seed. This is
the ideal blending of actress and material. How do we know that? Just
try to imagine the play without her.