‘Riverdance’ remains a love letter to Irish culture

The “Thunderstorm” number from the 25th Anniversary production of “Riverdance” at the Boch Center Wang Theatre. Photo by Jack Hartin

BOSTON — It is hard to overstate what a sensation “Riverdance” caused more than a generation ago.

After its debut in 1995, it became an international phenomenon and spawned a whole new appreciation of Irish culture – especially Irish dance and music – while also successfully integrating dance and music from other cultures.

It made Michael Flatley and his world-record flashing feet known worldwide.

Since “Riverdance” began performances in Dublin in 1995, the show has played 12,340 performances,; been seen live by more than 28 million people in more than 550 venues worldwide; played throughout 48 countries in six continents; and played to a global television audience of more than 3.5 billion people.

The 25th Anniversary Production of “Riverdance” is in Boston through Sunday at the Boch Center Wang Theatre after a multi-year Covid-related delay, and Director John McColgan took the stage  before Tuesday’s show  and noted that many in the cast of the show today were not born when the show first stopped in Boston, and he thanked audience members who kept their tickets waited patiently for the show to return.

What hasn’t changed in more than a quarter-century are the elements that have made “Riverdance” a theatrical spectacle of the highest order. There have been ground-breaking advances in sound, projections and lighting since the first “Riverdance,” and they have all found their way into this production.

Renowned composer Bill Whelan has brought his Grammy Award®-winning soundtrack back to life, completely revitalized for the first time since those original orchestral recordings.

Producer Moya Doherty and Director McColgan have incorporated innovative and spectacular lighting, projection, staging and costume design, and an all-new finale number.

The dancers are just as spectacular as ever, led by Amy-Mae Dolan, Will Bryant, Maggie Darlington, Anna Mai Fitzpatrick, Fergus Fitzpatrick, James Greenan and Meadhbh Kennedy,

How do you make “Riverdance” more relevant to today’s audiences? Perhaps by successfully integrating some social media stars into the equation. The company includes TikTok sensations Matthew and Michael Gardiner (@gardinerbrothers) and Morgan Bullock(@yourangleyuordevil), whose performance of Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage Remix” went viral on the platform in 2020 and will make her professional US stage debut in this production.

In a nod to other cultures, flamenco dancer Rocio Dusmet and a quartet of Russian folk dancers — Ana Turcan, Eugeniu Turcan, Christine Lesnikova and Alexander Safonov – will also have their turn in the sun.

Tappers Tyler Knowlin and Dharmesh Patel are also standouts in one of the more spectacular numbers of this production, set on a New York City streetscape.

“Riverdance” was one of the first large-scale theatrical productions to use projections as backdrops for scenes. They have evolved through the years, becoming HD and, finally, high-resolution moving graphics, spectacular backdrops that span the width of the huge stage with green hills, a moonscape and stars, a rolling river, a spectacular sunrise or a thunderstorm replete with the thunder of tapping shoes.

Many of the instruments used by the four musicians – Mark Alfred, Emma Frampton, Tara Howley and Hailey Richardson – are traditional Irish instruments, which give the show’s score such a distinctly Celtic vibe.

Two things about ‘Riverdance” remain true 25 years later. At its core it is a love letter to the to the Irish culture, told in a mixture of music, song and dance, with precision Irish dancing and tap dancing to die for.

The second: You don’t have to be Irish or Irish-American to enjoy it.

The 25th Anniversary Production of “Riverdance.” Through May 15 at the Boch Center Wang Theatre. For ticket information, go to bochcenter.org. For more information on the 25th Anniversary Tour, go to riverdance.com.