'Rockin' Road to Dublin' offers updated version of Irish dance
Celtic performers Chris Smith and Scott Doherty are bringing a new twist to Irish dance in their production “Rockin’ Road to Dublin.”
“This isn’t your typical Irish dance show,” said Smith, lead drummer and a graduate of Midlothian High School and Christopher Newport University. “It combines theatrical Broadway, a rock show and Irish dance. We’ve taken traditional Irish tunes and updated them and made them more exciting and energetic to make the show stand out on its own.”
The Irish dance-rock concert plays the Carpenter Theatre at Dominion Arts Center on Thursday, March 16. It marks the first time Smith is taking the stage in Richmond since he graduated from Midlothian High in 2002.
“I’m excited to come back to town,” he said. “My mom sings with the Richmond Symphony Choir, and it’s cool to perform on the same stage that I have been to many times.”
No stranger to the stage, Smith performed in the Ireland section of Busch Gardens after graduating from Christopher Newport. He also did side projects touring with the Celtic rock band The American Rogues.
“I have a love for Irish music,” he said.
Doherty, a Boston native, has been competing in Irish dance since he was young. He was the 2009 Men’s World Champion of Irish Dance and has toured with both “Riverdance” and “Lord of the Dance.”
The two artists met in 2007 when they were working at Busch Gardens.
“Chris and I became best friends. We ended up becoming roommates,” Doherty said, noting that both live in Williamsburg.
They came up with the idea to mount their own show about three years ago.
“We wanted to make Irish dance cool again and update it,” Smith said, adding that it took about a year for them to build the show. “We called in every favor we could with all of our friends. We knew a lot of the best musicians. People started jumping aboard.”
They tested the show in the 440-seat theater at Christopher Newport University in 2014 and followed up with a small tour.
“We started that national tour last September,” Smith said. “We toured the West Coast and now we are touring the East Coast.”
The show features 14 dancers, eight musicians and two singers.
“It has enough of the tradition people love, but it’s different enough that they will remember,” Smith said.
One of the first people Smith and Doherty considered for the show was Richmond-based singer Megan Lynn Browning, who performed with them at Busch Gardens in the show “Dublin Over.”
“I have grown up with a heavy influence of Irish music. My father’s side of the family is Irish,” Browning said. “I knew a lot of the songs before I even started at Busch Gardens.”
Originally from Hampton, Browning graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2012 with a degree in mass communications.
“Now I work solely as a singer,” she said. “I also own Harley Boone (a Richmond-based country band), and we play up and down the East Coast. That’s what I do in the off-season from this show.”
She likes that “Rockin’ Road to Dublin” is giving Irish music a kick.
“It will make the younger demographic go to the theater,” she said. “I think that having sung both traditional Irish music and this type of Irish music, I have to side with the updated rock ’n’ roll (version).”
She thinks that many of the traditional Irish step-dance shows sound the same.
“I think we have found something new,” she said.
It’s been a learning process for Smith and Doherty to create and mount the show.
“We have always thought the Irish dancing world was missing something,” Smith said. “We’ve learned that fans have said that as well. They have been waiting for something like this.”