RIVERDANCE has been seen by 23 million people in 12,000 performances across 45 countries around the world, but now is ‘coming home’, at least in the eyes of composer and Limerick man Bill Whelan.
The composer, born on Barrington Street, was in his native city this Monday to launch the 20th anniversary tour of the show, which will begin - “very importantly” for Whelan - in Limerick, as a flagship event for City of Culture.
The homecoming of sorts for the global phenomenon, produced by Moya Doherty, who joined Whelan in launching the show in Limerick, and directed by John McColgan, is something of a “lifelong dream come true” for the composer.
“It is a special day for me. We did a mini-version of Riverdance at the UL president’s dinner a few years ago, but this is the first time that we are bringing the full sized show,” he explained.
“Over the years to fit into different venues, we downsized slightly, but now we are back up for the 20th anniversary tour, which will be kicking off in Limerick,” he explained.
“It will be full size, full Russian troupe, full Flamenco, a bigger band, a new set - everything is up from where it was, and that is going to tour for the next year and a half.
“But the fact that it is kicking off in Limerick, for me, to launch the tour here, is a very special thing,” he added.
The show, which was performed to such acclaim as a seven minute interval act during the Eurovision in 1994, has travelled some 600,000 miles since becoming a fully fledged musical in 1995, debuting on Broadway in 2000 and making its composer a Grammy award winner in 1997.
It will be performed in the UL Arena over six shows and in front of audiences of up to 2,400 people from January 16.
Producer Moya Doherty said she was “delighted” for Whelan and said it was “very fitting that we start our 20th anniversary celebrations for Riverdance in Limerick”.
“There’s a nice symbolism to having this anniversary tour begin on the banks of the Shannon,” she said.
“It has long been my desire to bring Riverdance here but it is only now, for Limerick’s year as National City of Culture, that it has been possible to mount such a large scale production in the sports arena at UL,” she added.
Lead dancer James Greenan said Riverdance was a “great show but very demanding on the body”.
“You have to be very fit, train up beforehand and make sure you are strong and well rested during the tour,” said 23 year old from Cavan, who has been dancing for 14 years and part of Riverdance for two and a half years.
“It is a brilliant show to be part of, great company of people and it is the pinnacle to my career as a dancer,” he added.
Tickets for the shows are on sale through the UCH box office on 061-331549 or from the UCH website.