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New Irish rock, dance on stage at Hylton Center

“Rockin’ Road To Dublin,” which bills itself as the new generation of Irish rock and dance, is coming to the Hylton Performing Arts Center on Feb. 17, according to the show’s creators and executive producers, Chris Smith and Scott Doherty.

“We bring a wee bit of Dublin with a rockin’ edge to the stage,” said Smith, a lifelong musician and performer, having toured with one of the top Celtic rock bands, “The American Rogues.” He grew up in the Richmond area and beginning in 2006 he has been performing as a percussionist at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. He has also helped create countless productions around the Richmond/Newport News area, including “Souled Out” and the celebrated “Altar Boyz.”

The following musicians round out “Rockin’ Road To Dublin”: John Baldwin (bass player, “The American Rogues”), Keven Eknes (an award-winning guitarist from Norway), Marita May (classically trained on violin since age 5; “Celtic Fyre”), Kelly Mills (five-time winner of the Drum Corps and Percussion World Championships), Mike Moore (Busch Gardens and Kings Dominion), Joe Schermann (“Guys and Dolls,” “White Christmas,” “Grease,” “Smokey Joe’s Café’ and “Shout”) and Corey Walden (“The American Rogues” and founder of The Suzuki School of Milford).

“It’s truly the music that gets the audience on their feet,” said Doherty, who made his professional debut in 2005 with the North American tour of “Riverdance.” Since then he has toured the world with both “Riverdance” and Michael Flatley's “Lord of the Dance.” Since 2007 Doherty has been performing in the Irish dance shows at Busch Gardens, serving as “Celtic Fyre's” dance captain and the principal lead dancer since 2012.

“Rockin’ Road To Dublin” includes three-time international Irish dance champion Ashley Smith as the lead female dancer. At the age of 3 she began taking Irish dance lessons from her father and mother in Boston. Smith was crowned the World Irish Step Dancing Champion in Belfast, Ireland, in 2004—being the youngest American female to win the world title at that time. She went on to win two more world championships in 2005 and 2009. In addition, she has won four All Ireland Championships—The Great Britain Championships and The Australian Nationals—and numerous North American and regional titles. A top-30 female finalist on the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance,” she was a featured dancer on the Oscar-nominated film “Silver Linings Playbook.”

Rounding out the cast are Irish dancers Colin Barkell (“Celtic Fyre”), Mark Chichester (“Lord of the Dance”), Declan Crowley (“West Side Story: Mashup”), Bernadette Devereaux (“Lord of the Dance”), Megan Kirk Drake (“Rhythm of the Dance”), Patrick Holland (“Cherish the Ladies”), Billy Kanaly (“Riverdance”), Emily MacConnell (“Rockin’ Road to Dublin”), Erika Nielsen (“Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games”), world champion Tyler Schwartz (“Celtic Fyre”), Ciara Stillson (“Celtic Fyre”) and Mairéad Stillson (“Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games”).

The two lead vocalists are Megan Browning (“Harley Boone”) and Brett Benowitz (“Born Blue”). “The lyrics of the songs tell a love story that weaves together the music and dance,” said the show’s director, choreographer Jeff Whiting (“The Producers—tour;” “Bullets Over Broadway—tour”). “Our goal is to have the audience walk away having had an experience that is entertaining, uplifting, and inspirational.”

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