The big question with the return of “Riverdance” is: how much is the show’s Irish dance choreographer, lead Irish dancer and native Illinoisan Michael Flatley, missed in its current incarnation? The answer is somewhat ambiguous because Flatley’s company choreography is still step-for-step the same as it was before his embittered and well-publicized departure from the show to go on to create other works (“Lord of the Dance, ” “Feet of Flames”) that traded in on his “Riverdance” persona but depended completely on his own unique solo dance style. The company itself is as tight and energetic as it ever was, which is the good news. The bad news is that the producers have decided to keep all of the Flatley solo and duet spots intact with an interchangeable cast of principals as if to keep saying, “See? Anybody can do what you did,” when the reality is that, well, they can’t. Not that principal Irish dancers Marty Dowds and Melissa Convery are not engaging performers, for indeed they are, even if Dowds began a bit stiff on opening night. But Flatley conceived himself as the center of “Riverdance,” and all of his solo spots are still there, with someone else (and to make sure there are no more Flatley incidents, the leads are unannounced and interchangeable among a group of six dancers given equal billing) in the role. The irony is that if those solo spots were scaled back, or at least reconceived to take into account a variety of potential interpretations, the Flatley void would be far less of an issue. That said, so much of what made this show a cultural phenomenon remains intact and the production values are still enormously high. And there is no question that despite the myriad of “Riverdance” video versions out there with and without Flatley, this show depends on the live interaction of performers and audiences as well as its three-dimensionality to work its magic. (Dennis Polkow)
This production is now closed.