The era of Irish dance-themed stage productions, which has seen “Riverdance,” “Lord of the Dance,” “Dancing on Dangerous Ground,” and “Atlantic Steps,” among others, is not over yet: Now there’s “Rockin’ Road to Dublin,” which comes to the Greater Boston area this month with performances at the Collins Center in Andover on February 20 and 21. For the show’s co-creator, Irish dancer Scott Doherty, it’ll be a homecoming – he’s a Massachusetts native, born and raised in Lawrence.
A former Irish World Dance champion, Doherty made his professional debut in 2005 in the North American tour of “Riverdance,” went on world tours with “Riverdance” and Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance,” and then performed in the lead role of Lorcan in Gaelforce Dance for their 2012-13 tours of Europe and Asia. He has also appeared in the Irish dance shows at Busch Gardens, and in concert with acts such as The Irish Tenors, Cherish the Ladies, Michael Londra, and Andy Cooney.
The Boston Irish Reporter recently caught up with Doherty, who talked about his background and what’s different about “Rockin’ Road to Dublin.”
Q. “Rockin’ Road to Dublin” has been described as “Irish dance meets a rock concert.” Tell us about the show and how it came together.
A. The idea for “Rockin’ Road to Dublin” came through a series of conversations that myself and the show’s other creator, Chris Smith, had about shows we would love to see. I’m an Irish dancer and Chris is a musician who’s played all types of shows, including Irish genres, so we had a lot of similar ideas. We wanted to make a modern show that would speak to people of every age. We thought, “Hey, let’s make Irish dancing cool again.” Why not do Irish dancing with music played by electric guitars, two full drum kits, stuff like that. No one’s really done anything like that before. And after about three years of work and dedication, we had a show.
Q. So what’s the show like? Is there a plot or narrative of some kind?
A. There’s not a full on storyline to the show, although some numbers tell a story within themselves. The way we saw it, we wanted to make a show that people can come to and just be entertained. There are definitely rock elements in the show, but that’s not all “Rockin’ Road to Dublin” is centered around. There are softer, slower numbers that everyone enjoys, as well as upbeat dance numbers. We wanted to make sure that we didn’t overlook the great traditional core that Irish music has, and I really think we’ve found the perfect balance that everyone will enjoy.
Q. What kind of response have you had so far?
A. We debuted “Rockin’ Road to Dublin” in Newport News, Va., last year and it was an amazing success. The feedback we got was incredible. Everyone, old and young, all loved the show. People definitely seem to get what we’re trying to do. We’re not trying to reinvent Irish dance shows, we’re just making it cool and relevant again, and in a way that no one has really done before. And people loved it. It was instant confirmation that we need to bring this show to bigger and better levels.
Q. How did your upbringing in Lawrence help you get interested in Irish dancing?
A. My family has proud Irish roots. My great grandparents were from Ireland, so we have always had strong Irish traditions. In fact, my mom is president of the local Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernians. The way I got into Irish dancing was actually because my older cousin did it. We were young but we enjoyed it and my parents thought it would be best to start my siblings and me. I have a twin sister, actually, and I also have an older brother and sister that are twins as well. So when they were 6, my parents started them in Irish dancing classes, and then did the same for my twin sister and me.
All four of us danced for years, but my two sisters stopped when they went to college. On the other hand, my brother Brian and I pursued dancing in professional shows. Brian danced with Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance” for over a decade. I was lucky to have joined him on tour for a few years as well.
Q. How did you join “Riverdance,” and what did that experience do for you?
A. After my brother started touring with “Lord of the Dance,” I knew that was what I wanted to do as well. So I sent my name, resume, and a video to all of the big shows and one day I was lucky enough for “Riverdance” to call me to join them. That jumpstarted my professional career of dancing in shows – it was a dream come true. To do shows they usually look at two things: what other shows you’ve been in, and what your competition results are like. I had done all right in competition, so I was lucky to get into “Riverdance” back in 2005. It wasn’t until a few years of touring that I actually won the 2009 world championships of Irish dancing.
Q. What do you see as the biggest impact of “Riverdance” and “Lord of the Dance”?
A. “Riverdance” and “Lord of the Dance” definitely paved the way for Irish dancing and how it’s known today. If it weren’t for those shows, then people would barely know what Irish dancing even is. Now it’s a worldwide phenomenon that people can’t get enough of. It’s amazing.
Q. What it’s been like being one of the guys in charge, as opposed to just being a member of the cast?
A. This is the first time I’ve been hands-on with a production from the very beginning. Chris and I are literally doing everything: show design, performing, office work, setting up the business and handling contracts. It’s like a crash course in learning how to run a company, but we’re loving it. We also have an unbelievable cast and crew. So if it weren’t for them then none of this would be possible.