However gigglesome its pretensions, Riverdance–The Show is a hell of a good time. Despite its glitzy lighting and smoke, overloud music, and supposed cataclysmic events (the “official programme” ludicrously describes “massed dancers and orchestra in full flight”), the show’s heart is dance, and I’m convinced that’s why people flock to see it. There’s nothing like three dozen Irish dancers in hard shoes striking sparks with the floor in unison–and miked, yet–to produce a thunderous response in an audience. Then there are the “novelty” items, like flamenco dancer Maria Pages in segments whose concepts are silly (the birth of fire, the heartbeat of the world) but that provide a wonderful contrast to the Irish folk forms: her percussive steps are much less regular than the almost military Irish style, and from the waist up she’s not stiff and straight but serpentine. Tarik Winston and Toby Harris bring the house down in “Trading Taps,” a pyrotechnic dance duel between Irish dancers and contemporary tappers. And the Moscow Folk Ballet Company in “Russian Dervish” celebrates the freewheeling gaiety of eastern European forms. Altogether it’s an evening calculated to charm, and the quiet splendor of the Auditorium (unlike the sterile Rosemont Theatre) creates so much goodwill that you can live with the show’s worst features–the saccharine lyrics and sentimental melodies of its made-up Irish songs. At the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, through December 7: Tuesdays-Thursdays at 7:30, Fridays and Saturdays at 8, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2, and Sundays at 3; $15.50-$65.50. Call 312-902-1500 for tickets, 312-431-2357 for group rates for 20 or more. –Laura Molzahn

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Joan Marcus.