Broadway San Jose has done it again! They’ve successfully brought three fantastic productions – Spamalot, Spring Awakening and now Riverdance – to San Jose and they are slowing but surely starting to fill the huge void that AMTSJ left after filing for bankruptcy over a year ago. I couldn’t stop laughing when I saw Spamalot and I thought Spring Awakening was beautiful, poignant and truly moving. Now we have Riverdance, which has been a huge sensation since 1994, and it is currently playing its farewell tour, returning to UK, Europe and the Far East before finishing in 2010, fifteen years after it opened at The Point Theatre in Dublin. What a fantastic run!
The show was packed with mind-boggling dancing, incredible singing by Laura Yanez and an energy that filled the entire house. Yanez’s crystal clear voice was stunning, especially in the The Riverdance Singer’s opening number, “The Heart’s Cry.” She killed it! It was way better than what was recorded on the cast album (see below). It was what Emmy Rossum’s voice should have sounded like in The Phantom of the Opera movie. Yanez needs to be on Broadway, stat. The chorus sound was beautiful – very ethereal – like an Eric Whitacre song. I actually would love to sit through just a concert by The Riverdance Singers.
You obviously can’t walk away from this show without thinking, “How do they move their feet that fast?” The dancing was top-notch! It’s seriously some of the best footwork I’ve ever seen. The dancers were so precise with their movements. Every sound, each head turn and the various body movements were in perfect sync with each other. Their best footwork as a group was in the Act 1 closer, “Riverdance”. What a tour de force! “The Russian Dervish”, danced by The Moscow Folk Ballet, was a beautiful change from the rigidity and harshness of the Irish Step dancing. My favorite part of the whole night was the exchange between three of the best male Irish Step dancers and The Riverdance Tappers, Kelly Issac and Sean Scott. The mash-up between tap and Irish Step was spectacular. I only wish they did the same kind of mash-up with their closer cousin, clogging. They could have brought on the clogging group, All That! and had some more fantastic “dance-offs”. Seriously though, the tapping was unreal.
It wasn’t all perfect. At some point, in the last 15 years, they could have updated the projections. When it opened on Broadway in 2000, those projections were probably top-notch, but it was a bit distracting when each antiquated graphic was displayed. I would have preferred a blank cyc that changed colors throughout. It also became humorous – especially during the sultry “Firedance” danced by the Flamenco soloist, Rocio Montoya – when the fire was being projected behind Montoya in a very “Powerpoint 97” kind of way. (I actually didn’t really care for the flamenco part of the performance at all. It didn’t flow with the rest of the production.) The other random part of this production that stood out was The Riverdance Baritone Soloist, Michael Samuels. His song, “Heal Their Hearts” made no sense to the overall flow, sound and energy of the production. Though Samuels is a talented and well-trained singer, the awkward key changes in this song along with his vocal stylization didn’t belong in Riverdance. Even with these few complaints, I still think that Riverdance is well worth the ticket price and would highly recommend it.
At some point, we’ve all seen that PBS special, “The Best of Riverdance” but now you can actually feel like you are a part of that PBS special when you check out Broadway San Jose’s Riverdance at the Center of the Performing Arts in San Jose. It’s taken me 15 years to finally see Riverdance and now I finally understand what the buzz has been all about. There’s a reason why, after 15 years, they are still playing to packed houses and getting standing ovations: it’s just too spectacular to miss!
Riverdance at Center of the Performing Arts in San Jose
December 29th – January 3rd, 2010
Individual tickets: $88.00 – $20.00
Tuesday – Thursday – 7:30 p.m.
Friday – 8 p.m.
Saturday – 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sunday – 1 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Listen to: “The Heart’s Cry”
Listen to: “Riverdance”