Review: Riverdance Celebrates 25th Anniversary at the Cadillac Palace Theatre

Photo by Jack Hartin.

Broadway in Chicago is showcasing the 25th anniversary show of Riverdance at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. Riverdance opened its anniversary production with an emotional montage of the show’s worldwide tours and many accolades projected onto the large canvas backdrop of the stage. Riverdance first stole the show at the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest in Dublin, where the extravaganza began as a seven-minute intermission act. It was only later that Producer Moya Doherty, Composer Bill Whelan and Director John McColgan converted the performance into a record-breaking innovation of music and dance. The stage show took off immediately—by 1998, Riverdance was grossing nearly half a billion dollars every year and was voted the top grossing family entertainment show of 1998 in the US.

The global phenomenon boasts an energetic intertwining of Irish and international dance, especially as many of the best Irish dancers in the world are now from areas other than Ireland. The Riverdance Irish Dance Troupe are all world-class Irish dancers, most having begun their dancing careers at three or four years old before competing in competitions. While most are from Ireland, some dancers are from Britain, the United States, Canada and Australia.

Photo by Jack Hartin.

The sheer passion, energy, and bold display of unfeasible athleticism, particularly by lead dancers Will Bryant and Maggie Darlington, are enough to keep an audience’s eyes glued to the stage and their feet tapping throughout the entire two-hour performance. Add in four extremely talented and well-regarded musicians performing a Grammy-award-winning score and stunning graphics projected as thematic transition pieces, and Riverdance continues to live up to and surpass its prestigious reputation. The Riverdance Singers and Drummers played a huge role in the show as well in true Gaelic song style. Solos performed by the award-winning musicians were interwoven between the dance numbers, which included a Harlem tap-dancing turned light-hearted duel, Spanish flamenco performed by the magnificent Rocio Montoya, and even (although briefly) Hopak—a Ukrainian folk dance featuring the squat-and-kick maneuver that obviously requires incredible athleticism.

Photo by Jack Hartin.

The only downside to the performance was the narrative poetry voiced by John Kavanagh, which was slightly more distracting than informative or poignant. Luckily, the practiced dancers and musicians made it extremely easy to get past the cheesiness of his narration and continue to be immersed in a stunning performance.

Run time is two hours with a brief intermission. The show runs for a limited one-week engagement at the Cadillac Palace Theatre through  Sunday, February 9. Tickets range from $32 to $90 and a digital lottery is available for a select number of $25 seats for each performance. Purchase here, visit, or call 800-775-2000.

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Katie Priest

Katie Priest recently returned home to Chicago after receiving her BA in English from the University of Washington in Seattle. She works for an environmental nonprofit where she writes and researches grants and manages social media for expanding agroforestry in developing countries. Katie is pursuing her long-time passion for reading and writing through the exploration and review of the arts with Third Coast Review.