Swathed in layers and layers of show-biz glitz–overmiked singers and band, tons of Vegas-style lighting, dull pretend-Irish music amplified to jet-level decibels, and silly (often unintelligible) song lyrics and voice-over narration–is some genuine talent. True, the show’s female lead, Jean Butler, looks a lot like Barbie, but she can dance. So can the other people onstage: her partner, the diminutive, tough Colin Dunne; the male and female corps of Irish dancers; the Moscow Folk Ballet Company, defectors from the Moiseyev; and tappers Tarik Winston and Daniel B. Wooten, who not only challenge the Irish steppers’ fast footwork and intricate beats but hurtle into back flips and drop unexpectedly into the splits. But perhaps the best dancer, and the one most adversely affected by the unimaginative lock-step music, is flamenco artist Maria Pages. Don’t ask me what she’s doing in this show, ostensibly about Ireland and its culture, but I was very glad she was there. Also a participant in last summer’s Chicago on Tap event at Navy Pier, she proved once again that beneath the brazen self-display of flamenco dance is a clear stream of impersonal passion, expressed in the legato movements of curved and flowing arms, in the set of a chin, in precise and powerful footwork, in a sense of fun. This is an artist whose command is so great she can afford to fool around. Unfortunately, Riverdance is not designed for playful flourishes. Still, its overdetermined structure and studied professionalism are what make it a reliable product, what sell tickets–and up to a point, rightfully so. At the Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Road in Rosemont, through November 10: Tuesdays-Thursdays at 7:30, Fridays at 8, Saturdays at 2 and 8, and Sundays at 2 and 7. Added show Monday, November 4, at 7:30; no show Tuesday, November 5. $24.50-$59.50. Call 312-902-1500 for tickets.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Le Poer Trench.