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'Riverdance' a bit pretentious but dazzling

"RIVERDANCE," March 20, at Kingsbury Hall, 8 p.m. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes, including a 20-minute intermission. Additional performances: March 21-24, 27-31 at 8 p.m.; March 25 and April 1 at 7 p.m.; matinees March 24, 23, 25 and April 1 at 2 p.m. Tickets available through ArtTix at 355-ARTS (2787) and 1-888-451-ARTS.

"Riverdance" (the show) is snazzy (again).

Tapping before a full house in Kingsbury Hall on opening night, the Riverdance Irish Dance Troupe brought the audience to its feet. Of course, it wasn't just the dancing that was dazzling. The band, too, was dazzling — stacked on two levels, with light gleaming from a thousand surfaces.

There was glitter on the dancer's costumes, too, on Michael Patrick Gallagher's pants in the first act and on his chest in the last number. Even Tara Barry's lips and eyelids were strewn with sparkles.

In short, "Riverdance, the Show" is extremely Hollywood — as well as extremely fun.

Gallagher is an athlete. His feet and legs move so fast that they seem to vibrate rather than tap. Barry also is amazing. She seems unaware of gravity. Barry and Gallagher are especially lovely when they dance together.

There's more, of course. Niamh Ni Charra plays a mean fiddle, and Brian O'Brien plays the uilleann pipes, and Andrew Reilly coaxes some drama from a rather plain-looking drum called the bodhran. Also, soloists Aidan Conway, Lisa Kelly and Kirk Walker have intriguing voices.

If you like flamenco, you'll be glad to know Nuria Brisa is still with this tour. The dancers from the Moscow Folk Ballet are also incredible athletes; their dance is one of the best in the show.

Other show-stoppers are "Thunderstorm" and "Trading Taps." In the latter, three Irish dancers accidentally meet up with three American tap dancers. The Irish — with their regal bearing — and the fluid and energetic Americans challenge and imitate each other, and they're thoroughly entertaining.

There are times, during the evening, when you can't help but feel that "Riverdance, the Show" is a little full of itself, a little pretentious. Take the beginning, for instance, when the announcer calls it "Riverdance, THE SHOW," three times in a row.

Then there's all that stuff about The Forest and The Dark and The Heart and The Homeland. It makes no sense.

And how about intermission, which is supposed to last 15 minutes but stretches on and on to give the T-shirt and video and CD sellers more time to score.

The long intermission would have been a lot more annoying if the second act of "Riverdance" (the show) weren't worth the wait. All of the pretense would have been a lot more annoying if the dancing hadn't been so great.


E-mail: susan@desnews.com