“Rockin’ Road to Dublin” performed its inaugural show at McGregor Hall on Thursday. A small but enthusiastic audience responded to the Celtic music and dance wrapped in a rock-and-roll exterior.
The real story, however, is how the troupe happened to begin its national tour in Henderson.
Tommy Deadwyler, executive director of the McGregor Hall Performing Arts Center, invited “Rockin’ Road” to Henderson as the company was assembling musicians and dancers for the show. For 11 days, “Rockin’ Road” used McGregor Hall to work out staging of the production. In return, Henderson got the premier performance of “Rockin’ Road to Dublin.”
“Rockin’ Road” is the brainchild of Scott Doherty and Chris Smith. They conceived a mix of traditional Irish music and dance in a modern setting. Not exactly a rock opera, “Rockin’ Road” could be considered a rock ballet.
In addition to their responsibilities as executive producers, Doherty is lead male dancer and Smith is a drummer.
Smith said McGregor Hall offered a perfect setting to put the show together. He described the stage as “phenomenal.” Compared to other stages in his experience, “it is right up there.”
Smith said the company rehearsed for a week in Raleigh with the musicians and the dancers before coming to Henderson to put it together. The 11 days in McGregor Hall allowed them to use a world-class stage as they put the finishing touches on the production.
After the Henderson kickoff, the national tour will take them “all the way to the West Coast and back,” he said.
The Henderson audience got its money’s worth Thursday.
Guitars and fiddles led the music, backed up by percussion and bass.
Male and female dancers performed in the classic Irish style popularized by “Riverdance.” Heel and toe tapped out rapid rhythms, providing a feast for ear and eye. All this on a colorful set, with lights enhancing the moods created by the music, demonstrating that the stage in McGregor Hall can accommodate a bigtime theatrical production
The Celtic influence underlay the entire performance. The musicians and dancers performed modern versions of Irish folk tunes such as “Toss the Feathers,” “I Know My Love” and “Road to Errogie.”
“The Fields of Athenrye” evoked memories of the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s.
The pre-intermission climax was “The Battle,” a contest between drummers and dancers. Three snare drummers picked out a rhythmic pattern, and the dancers duplicated it. Then the process was reversed, as the dancers challenged the drummers. Back and forth they went until they finished in a flurry of drumsticks and footwork.
The second half of the program continued the Irish theme, with a little bit comedy, romance and hard rock thrown in.
The finale recalled the often sad history of the Irish quest for independence as the troupe performed the 19th century anthem, "A Nation Once Again."
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