Review: Riverdance 20 Years (Mirvish)

Photo of the Riverdance troupe by Jack HartinMirvish presents the 20th Anniversary of Riverdance on stage at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto

Mirvish Productions celebrates 20 years of Riverdance with a special performance from the touring cast on stage at the Ed Mirvish Theatre until May 29, 2016. This two-hour performance features a cast of over 20 troupe and principal dancers, percussionists, singers, as well as an in house band all set against stunning backdrops and paired with a sumptuous musical score that tells a story all on its own. Simply put, this show is viscerally beautiful to watch and you won’t be disappointed.

Riverdance is a theatrical dance phenomena that has now captivated global audiences for the past 20 years. It features Irish music along with Irish step dancing which focuses on a stiff upper torso and arms with a focus on quick footwork and kicks. The rigidness of the upper body paired with the rapid foot movement makes for a very eye-catching visual as these dancers glide across the floor effortlessly and shift into lines and formations with ease. They use both soft and tap shoes in their routines and the tap numbers add a whole other element to the musical score.

Both the tap and the high leaps featured in Irish step dance serve to link the international elements in this performance together, making for a more global experience. The tap element leads to captivating fired up flamenco numbers by the lovely Marita Martinez-Rey and even a “tap-off” between American style tappers Michael Everett and Tyler Knowlin and Irish step dancers Stephen Brennan, James Greenan, and Jason O’Neill, which made for my favorite number of the evening. The high kicks and flying leaps across the stage that add extra brilliance to the Irish step dancing lead into a few remarkable acrobatic numbers from the Russian dance ensemble.

Lead dancers Maggie Darlington and James Greenan looked adorable and told a sweet and poetic love story through their connection in dance that felt believable and carried to the audience through the glitz of the stage production. The troupe also did an outstanding job throughout the performance, not only with their dance skills but in showcasing how multifaceted their talents are — the drummers and dancers are members of the Riverdance troupe as well.

Admittedly there were a number of times where I felt that a few of the dances mostly served to show off the gorgeous costuming by Jen Kelly. Rupert Murray’s lighting design and projections by Benjamin Pearcy were also beautiful to behold. The band lead by Pat Managan also did fine work. I was particularly impressed by Matt Bashford who played the Uilleann pipes, low whistle and tin whistle. Great work.

Finally, and I know I’m nitpicking here, but I was hit with a sour note when during the final curtain call, the principal dancers took their well earned bow centre stage but never stood back to allow the troupe, the band or even the phenomenal lead singer to take their bows in the front. In the name of courtesy and etiquette, that felt very off-putting to me.

That aside, this is a fantastic opportunity to see this sort of dance artistry live and in person. It’s as wonderful to see live as it is to watch on any television special, so do make Riverdance 20 Years part of your evening out.


  • Riverdance 20 Years is playing at the Ed Mirvish Theatre (244 Victoria St) until May 29, 2016.
  • Performances run Tuesday through Saturday at 8 pm with matinees on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays at 2 pm.
  • Tickets range from $35-$89 for matinees and  $49-$99 for regular evenings, premium seats are $150. Group prices are available, see website for details.
  • Tickets can be purchased online, by phone by calling (416) 872 1212 or in person at the box office.

Photo of the Riverdance troupe by Jack Hartin.