Monday, June 5, 2017

Riverdance – Merrill Auditorium – Portland, ME

Review: Riverdance – Merrill Auditorium – Portland, ME – 1 June 2017

I’m sure it has been a grueling schedule for the cast of Riverdance on their 20th Anniversary World Tour. We were able to watch the show at Merrill Auditorium in Portland, Maine on June 1st.  It is one of the last 7 locations for the cast this year before they return to Ireland for the summer and tour Europe during the fall.

Originally known as the Portland City Hall Auditorium, the Merrill Auditorium is a lovely old theater built in 1911 in the eastern section of Portland City Hall. It underwent a major renovation in 1997[i]. It seats 1,907 people.

We arrived early and went to Union Restaurant up the street. (More about that later.) The doors into the auditorium opened about 30 minutes before showtime. We had great seats, Row G in Section 1 of the Orchestra; the seats were comfortable and had plenty of leg room. I was impressed with the venue. My new phone has a panoramic view option which I gave a try.

Merrill Auditorium, Portland, Maine - Panoramic view.

Sadly, the lead male dancer was no Michael Flatley. He wasn’t as crisp nor as engaging as the original. Likewise, none of the female leads had that amazing gazelle-like nature that Jean Butler of the original cast had.

I know it was long into their road trip, but it was clear some of the troupe were tired, bored, or both. A couple cast members danced nicely when in the front but when they rotated to the rear of a group they fell out of character, just standing around, flat-footed, looking about waiting for their return to the front. I’ve seen high school casts remain in character much better. The lack of professionalism in some of the cast was sad to see.

Clearly, with the smaller cast and many of the troupe needing to double-up on roles. For example, I was less than inspired when I first saw J. L. Williams singing. He was an okay baritone but not great. However, he really shined as a tapper. In the original, the two roles would have been handled by two different individuals.

Likewise, Flamenco dancer, Marta Ortiz, seemed to get tired and more and more flat-footed as her particularly long flamenco routine went on. She had a great smile and kept it during what had to have been an exhausting routine, but I don’t recall ever seeing a professional dancer look so tired. 

The one aspect of the show that may have been better than the original was Mark Alfred on the drums.  He was amazing; I believe his Bodhrán playing was the best I have ever heard. His drum and cymbal work was a positive contribution throughout the show. 

I will admit, although I’m not a Celtophile, I am close and generally love all things Celtic. I found the Riverdance 20th Anniversary Tour to be enjoyable and great fun. It was a good show, but certainly not of the quality that created the Riverdance phenomena of the 1990s. The show did remind me of my Celtic Irish roots and, most importantly, made me want to dance. 

RIVERDANCE 20th Anniversary Tour [Trailer]
(Not the cast nor the Portland, Maine venue but good to watch.)


[i] Wikipedia – Merrill Auditorium -

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