From the moment I started to get near the Gershwin Theatre I felt some kind of uplifting energy inside of me. As soon as I came to the doors I saw lot of people waiting to get in. All of us came for the same reason to see the Riverdance. I felt very enthusiastic as I walked down the lobby to the escalators. The atmosphere of the theatre was solemn: coat-checkers, all people well dressed, everyone is smiling and expecting the event.
As I sat down on my seat, I started to look around. It was a big auditorium with a seats arranged so everyone will see the event no matter where you seat. Gershwin Theatre is the proscenium kind of theatre. The stage didnt have any particular decorations that will catch your eye, so I flipped the playbill to get some information before the beginning.
As the lights went down, from the first minute of a play I was swept away with a beautiful music and stayed like this until the last minute of the show. It seemed for me, though the musicians are the heart of the play. They brought life and energy. Some of these musicians were actors too. For example, one young lady who played violin came on to the stage a few times in the show, and danced and played solo, and with the rest of dancers at the same time. Music itself, which was a folk Irish transformed to something modern, was fantastic. A cappella singers also perform as a sort of chorus. Throughout the play we were able to hear the voice of unseen narrator, who were telling an impressionistic story of the Irish. The lighting pointed out the important moments and people at the write time. It did not have any special lighting effects and it really didnt need to. All together, lighting and sound created some feeling of spirituality for the show.
Scenery of the play was very simple. It didnt use any extravagant decorations. Everything was very simple but it didnt give a feeling of emptiness. I felt that it was good because it didnt disturb attention of an audience. However, it was giving very basic information to what is going on a stage. The colors of the scenery corresponded to the scene. It helped the audience to feel what the dance is about. Most of the decorations were shown as symbolic elements that gave a feeling of appropriateness.
Riverdance tells us the story of Irish history and dance in the abstract, mixing Irish step dancing with other folk forms like African American tap, Russian folk and Spanish flamenco. Production of the dances began slow at the first moment and then was getting faster and faster. I felt that I have no time to relax, dancers were holding all the attention. The piece with the Irish dance required from a few people on stage to a full stage of dancers. At the moments when everyone danced on the stage, the movements were so synchronized that it was giving a feeling that everyone flows together as a unit. With its movements dancers were able to show the mood of dance. I were able to laugh, feel joy and sadness. I think it was a most important thing for dancers to transform the feeling of their mood to the audience. What I also liked the most is that dancers did not dance with a stone look on their faces while dancing. Their expression changed to what the dance required it to change.
Costumes of the dancers were nothing extravagant, but simple and good. It reflected the period of the play. Style of the costumes depended on the dance. If the dance was Russian folk costumes were right accordingly to it. The haircut corresponded to the dance either. When it was a Spanish flamenco the design of the dancers hair was the one that all the traditional dancers of this type of dance wear. The color of the costumes reflected the dance and story.
I felt that director John McColgan completed a task not from an easy one. This show did not contain much of a plot and still director has been able to bring the feeling of unity. Everything: dancers, singers, light, and sound moved together. And production was not only technically correct, it were able to give a feeling to the audience. Pace of the play was very correct. It grasped attention of the audience bit by bit, but then it was holding all the attention to the very end. Rhythm was correctly chosen also. It changed from the fast tones to the more slower ones and vice versa, so the spectator were able to rest a little without loosing the flow of the emotions. I also think that director used all his available space correctly. Even though there was not much of a decoration, there was not a feeling of emptiness on a stage. Instead of scenery free space was filled up with people as much as it needed to.
To conclude, I just want to say that this show was fascinating. It didnt seem that there were some mistakes done neither from actors, nor technicians or directors. This was a great experience for me, which I were not ready for, since I am not very fond of dance productions. But I was swept away with the quality of the performance and the beauty of Irish folk music.