Riverdance stamps its mark
PUBLISHED: 11:38 25 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:42 20 February 2013
Riverdance is a showbiz phenomenon. But after 15 years on the road and performances to millions of people, it is finally bowing out. Dave Gooderham speaks to the people behind its success
Still tap of the pops with theatregoers
From accusations of political bias to UK duo Jemini scoring nul points, the Eurovision Song Contest is seen by many as a waste of a good Saturday night.
For every Bucks Fizz, there have been too many Andy Abrahams. For Abba singing Waterloo, there has been Jordan painfully failing at the qualifying stage.
But the famous singing competition has actually given the world something far greater. Something that has been experienced by more than 2.9million people in well over 1,000 performances.
That something is Riverdance with Michael Flatley first hot-footing it into our lives on the stage of the 1995 Eurovision Song Contest.
Though the incredible talent and energy would have surely found a mass audience eventually, it was a seven-minute set in the contests interval that brought traditional Irish step dancing to global attention.
From such humble beginnings, an incredible two billion people worldwide have now seen Riverdance one way or another.
No one could ever have predicted that the show would still be playing to sell out theatres 15 years on.
But not for much longer. The amazing show that has thrilled and delighted in equal measure is coming to an end.
The Riverdance Farewell Tour will cap a remarkable 15 years which has seen the lavish production crowned as a phenomenon of historic proportions.
Suffolk audiences will be part of history when the tour arrives at the Ipswich Regent between March 15 and 20.
After such a coveted history, the people behind the tour insisted it was the right time to close the curtain on Riverdance, but not before making sure it ends on a high.
Speaking about the shows success earlier this year, senior executive producer Julian Erskine said: The reality is that it started out as an interval act at Eurovision.
We thought the stage show might run for a month. No show like this has gone past 10 years on tour.
Theres something about it that just clicks its something about the spirit of the show. Ive seen the show so many times and the reaction of people is always that they come out happy.
They come out trying to do Irish dancing, laughing and having fun.
Following its success on Eurovision when the fleet of foot was something never seen before, the Riverdance song went in at number one in the Irish charts keeping Wet Wet Wets phenomenally successful Love Is All Around off the top spot.
While Marti Pellow and the boys dominated the UK charts, Riverdance would enjoy similar success in their native Ireland, remaining above all else for a record 18 weeks.
But its success was not confined to the Emerald Isle with Riverdance peaking at a credible number nine in the UK charts before later going on to be a best-selling music video.
The full-length show opened in February 1995 in the Point Theatre, Dublin and soon dampened down any criticism from traditionalists who thought the performance would damage Irish music and dance.
In fact, the opposite was true for the first ever Irish dance show. Record ticket sales were recorded for the initial five-week run.
Much of the early success of Riverdance was down to Michael Flatley who co-created the initial choreography.
But the show proved it was about more than just one leading man by showing no signs of letting up when Flatley and Riverdance went their own separate ways.
The production has now been seen by millions in performances around the world and producer, Moya Doherty, said that was testimony to everyone who had been part of its sweeping success.
She said: 2010 will mark the shows 15th anniversary and, since 1995, the success of Riverdance in the UK has gone beyond our wildest dreams.
The fact that the show continues to draw and excite audiences is a tribute to every dancer, singer, musician, staff and crew member who have dedicated themselves to the show.
We look forward to this farewell tour of the UK as it was always our intention to end on a high note.
The Riverdance Farewell Tour will play in ten cities across the UK from March with organisers saying there will be no further extension and no further dates released.
It plans to end its tour, and its 15-year run, in the place where it all begun Dublins Point Theatre.
With a mix of matinee and evening performances, it plays at the Regent between Monday, March 15, and Saturday, March 20, with more information available from the theatre box office on 01473 433 100.