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Rockin' Road to Dublin' goes through Topeka with stop at TPAC

New revue mixes traditional Irish dance show with Celtic rock concert

Although many Irish dance shows, including “Riverdance” and “Lord of the Dance,” have stepped through Topeka, the co-creators of “Rockin’ Road to Dublin” assure potential ticket-buyers they haven’t seen a production like theirs.

Scott Doherty, the 2009 Men’s World Champion of Irish Dance and “Rockin’ Road to Dublin’s” lead male dancer, said his two favorite audience responses to the show are, first, “ ‘I’ve never seen anything like that before.’ That’s exactly what we’re trying to do.”

The second bit of positive feedback comes when Doherty asks people to tell him their favorite part of the show. The question stumps them.

“They have trouble picking out one thing. They love it all,” Doherty said by telephone from the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts in Findlay, Ohio, at the eighth stop of a 60-city tour.

The 15th stop of “Rockin’ Road to Dublin” will be at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at the Topeka Performing Arts Center, 214 S.E. 8th

What distinguishes “Rockin’ Road to Dublin” from its predecessors is the melding of traditional Irish dance with a Celtic rock concert.

“We bring a wee bit of Dublin with a rockin’ edge to the stage,” said Chris Smith, lead drummer and co-creator of the show that features 14 dancers, an eight-member rock band and two vocalists.

The idea of the show came to Doherty and Smith as they were working out together at a gym in Williamsburg, Va., where the two met in 2007 as performers at that city’s Busch Gardens amusement park.

Doherty started Irish dancing at age 6, and Smith said he has played drums nearly all of his life. Smith continued to drum through college, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in his other area of interest, technical theater with an emphasis in light design. Doherty danced with “Riverdance,” “Lord of the Dance” and other shows, and Smith toured with one of the top Celtic rock bands, The American Rogues.

Doherty said “Rockin’ Road to Dublin” was the result of Smith and him finding the answer to the question, “What kind of show would we want to see?”

Mixing rock with traditional Irish music opens the show to younger audiences.

“What we always try to say is we’re not changing Irish dancing, we’re updating it,” Smith said.

For “Rockin’ Road to Dublin,” the two started “calling in favors” and assembled a cast that includes Ashley Smith, who in 2004 became the youngest American woman to win the World Irish Step Dancing Championship in Belfast, Ireland. The other dancers include champions and alumni of other Irish dance tours, and the musicians and singers also have impressive resumes.

In addition to the two dozen performers, “Rockin’ Road to Dublin” travels with a crew of 10 to maintain the Broadway-caliber show, directed by six-time Tony Award nominee Jeff Whiting.

“There’s nothing like this out there,” Smith said.

Bill Blankenship can be reached at (785) 295-1284 or Follow Bill on Twitter @@TCJ_AandE. Read Bill's blog.

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