Ohio native stars in ‘Riverdance’Written by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
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Visit www.Facebook.com/ToledoFreePress by noon on Friday, Feb. 11 to win a pair of tickets to “Riverdance” and an Irish dinner at The Blarney! Tickets courtesy of the Theater League.
An Ohio native will be center stage when Riverdance comes to Toledo for three performances Feb. 15 and 16.
Joe Moriarty, only the second North American to dance the lead male role, said audiences should expect a high-energy performance from the award-winning and internationally acclaimed Irish dance show.
“There’s a lot of energy, a lot of excitement,” Moriarty told Toledo Free Press Star from a tour stop in Iowa. “It’s got great music; I think people really respond to the dancing aspect and the rhythm. It’s got something for everyone.”
Performances are Feb. 15 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 16 at 2 and 8 p.m. at the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd.
Moriarty, who grew up in Columbus in a large Irish-American family, started dancing when he was 8. Since joining Riverdance in 1997, Moriarty has performed around the world, including Canada, Mexico, China, Japan, Europe, Scandinavia, Scotland and the United Kingdom. He said it’s been about two years since he performed in Ohio.
“It’s great to see all the places and meet new people,” Moriarty said. “The best thing is performing for the audience and how excited they are to see you dance.”
From its very start, Riverdance has been larger than life.
The show began as a seven-minute interval during an annual televised international song contest in 1994, but got such a reaction it was expanded into a full show of its own, which broke box-office records when it debuted in Dublin the following year.
An innovative fusion of Irish and international dance, music and song, Riverdance has now been performed more than 10,000 times and seen live by more than 22 million people at more than 350 venues in 40 countries across four continents, according to a news release.
“There is no doubt that as the pieces began to fit together, there was a sense that something unique was happening around and among us,” Grammy Award-winning composer Bill Whelan said in the release.
Sixteen years later, the journey continues, said Merle Frimark of Merle Frimark Associates, the North American press and marketing representative for Riverdance.
“Riverdance really crossed the line,” Frimark said. “People are still going; they still want to see the show.”
Although the scenes are connected by only a loose storyline, Riverdance essentially tells the story of Irish culture and of the Irish immigration to America. Act One focuses on “myth and legend,” while Act Two is “discovery and departure,” Frimark said. The Toledo show will be comprised of about 35 dancers and is produced by Moya Doherty.
Moriarty said his favorite number is called “Trading Taps,” in which Irish dancers square off against African-American tap dancers.
“It goes down really well for the audience; they enjoy it a lot,” Moriarty said.
Frimark agreed the dance-off is one of the highlights of the show.
“That’s one of the showstoppers,” Frimark said. “People stand up, yell and scream.”
Although Riverdance mainly showcases the Irish tradition, Frimark said it includes nods to many other cultures, such as Flamenco dancers.
Director John McColgan said it was hoped that the different dance traditions would “mingle and spark off each other so as to create a performance with its own identity.”
“It would be a performance rooted in the folk memory and arts of the Irish people, yet fresh, unique and exciting, and accessible to people everywhere,” McColgan said in the release.
Irish Times drama critic Fintan O’Toole said Riverdance manages to capture the way new adaptations bring life to old traditions, the dynamic way that culture evolves.
“It was always hard to capture this ebb and flow in performance. Things had to be either traditional or modern, either authentic or invented, either Irish or foreign,” O’Toole said in the release. “And then with one elegant, confident leap, Riverdance bounded over all those categories and expressed what Irish people have always felt — that you can have it both ways. You can preserve a tradition only by letting it live, breathe and change.”
Since its debut, the show has gone through 1,500 dancers, 12,000 costumes, 12,000 stage lighting bulbs, 14,000 dance shoes, 16,250 guitar, bass and fiddle strings and 5.5 million pounds of dry ice, according to the release. There have been 284,000 T-shirts and 1.65 million programs sold and the soundtrack went platinum.
“Come check it out,” Moriarty said. “It’s going to be a great performance. People are going to really enjoy it.”
To order tickets, which start at $25, visit www.stranahantheater.com, call (800) 745-3000 or visit the Stranahan box office 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday or 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. Student, military and group discounts are available.
For information, visit www.riverdance.com.