Wednesday, January 30, 2008


Can anything good come of naming sons “Lincoln” and “Booth”? Especially if you admit you did it for a joke.

Lincoln (Hassan El-Amin) and Booth (Adrian Roberts) are the characters in a 2-act Pulitzer prize winning drama called “Topdog/Underdog,” written by Suzan-Lori Parks, directed by Benny Sato Ambush, and currently presented on the main stage of Sacramento Theater Company, through February 17th.

(You will never be tempted to play Three Card Monte again!)

The play had a successful off-Broadway run with actors Don Cheadle and Jeffrey Wright in the lead roles. It then had an extended run on Broadway in 2002, in which Cheadle was replaced by MosDef.

By all means get to the theater in time to see director Ambush give the pre-show talk, which is one of the best I’ve heard at Sacramento Theater Company and beautifully sets up the play you are about to see.

Entering the main theater you see the lights glowing softly on the beautiful set by Kathryn Kawecki (lighting design by Victor En Yu Tan). As the lights come up a the start of the play, we find it is a shabby room with thrift-shop style furniture.

“Topdog/Underdog” is the story of two brothers, Lincoln, the older and Booth, the younger. The men were abandoned as children by both of their and have grown up as best friends and support for each other. Through their interchanges (which often have the cadence and lyricism of poetry), it is clear that the pain of abandonment has sunk deep roots in both men and there is always something that brings them back to the parental love of which they were deprived throughout their lives. They are unable to trust anyone, as a result, even each other.

Both men are struggling to find their way in the world. Lincoln, having been thrown out of the house by his ex-wife is sleeping in a recliner in his brother’s room in a seedy boarding house. There is no bathroom; it is down the hall. Linc pays the rent, as he is the only brother with regular employment. He works at a local arcade, where he dresses as Abraham Lincoln (which includes covering up his dark skin with white make-up) and lets customers pretend to shoot him with a cap gun. In former days, Linc was a champion of the card game, Three-card Monte and could bring home hundreds of dollars a day which he’d bilked off of unsuspecting customers on the street. But he’s trying to become an honest man and has sworn off the cards. (“There’s more to me than that. There’s more to life.”)

Booth’s specialty is shoplifting. He can steal almost anything, from clothing to jewelry to large pieces of silverware. But he longs for Linc’s success with Three-card Monte and practices the banter and throwing the cards endlessly. He changes his name to “Three-Card.” He begs Linc for lessons and longs for the two of them to be partners in the game. He chides Lincoln for “dressing up like some dead white man” in order to make a living. Linc feels Booth is too bumbling to ever be a success at the con game.

As the play progresses towards its inevitable conclusion, there are mounting tensions involving employment and a girlfriend, and always a return to the core question: why did our parents leave, and did they ever love us? Are we worthy of love ourselves?

A very poignant scene has Booth waiting for his girlfriend to come for dinner. He has “boosted” tableware, silver service, flowers. He arranges and rearranges things, checks the food in the silver chaffing dish, and cries out for her to come. Linc arrives home to find Booth waiting at the window, certain that she will come, though she was due at 7 p.m. and it’s now 2 a.m.

El-Amin, Roberts, and director Ambush have worked together beautifully, to paint a well constructed picture of love and loss, of ambition and frustration, of the complexities that enter into family relationships and the tragedy that sometimes accompanies intense emotion.

It is a drama that will haunt you long after you have left the theater.

Thursday, January 24, 2008


I wish I could tell you the name of the play I saw at the Mondavi Studio Theater last night, but it can’t be printed in a family newspaper. “N*W*C*” stands for the racial slurs that are used for African Americans, Latinos, and Asians, but most newspapers use the shortened form to avoid being offensive. Publicity material from the University cautions, “Patrons should be advised that the production uses offensive language.”

The reaction to the title of the piece pretty much explains the purpose of writing and performing it in the first place.

The production was scheduled for only three performances, but brisk ticket sales necessitated adding a fourth performance, January 26th at 10:30 p.m.

N*W*C* is a 90-minute original work for the stage produced by L.A.-based Speak Theater Arts that co-writers Rafael Agustin, Allan Axibal, and Miles Gregley say “traces the origins and evolution of three derogatory terms that shaped our lives and took the place of a genuine understanding of our distinct cultures.” N*W*C* mixes comedy with the real-life stories of three young men from different ethnic backgrounds to deconstruct the notion of race in America.

It won the 2003 award for “Best Play” from the American Readers Theater Association, as well as the Audience Prize and four other major awards.

Gregley, Agustin and Axibal were all best friends (in itself an unusual thing, given their mixed racial ethnicity, the actors told the audience at a Q&A following the show) who developed N*W*C* as a one-night senior project while attending UCLA. It was so successfully received that a six-week engagement in downtown Los Angeles followed, and then they were booked for a national tour. It has now been touring for four years and has been playing to sell-out crowds across the country.

Neo-Nazis threatened one performance in Olympia, WA, while the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sent out fliers condemning their use of the ethnic slur against blacks at another one (proving that the show really does bring people together, joked one of the actors).

The show begins with Axibal, dressed in a blue satin outfit you might find on any mannequin in Chinatown, stepping out from behind a panel chanting the Asian epithet over and over again. He is joined by Agustin dressed in stereotypical Latino garb joining in the chant with his own particular epithet, and finally Gregley, wearing a flowing full-length coat and a red feathered hat chants the “N-word” over and over. By the time the chant has finished, the audience is already starting to become inured to the terms.

Gregley lets the audience know how many times they have heard the N-word during the piece, Agustin repeats with how many times he has said the W-word, and when Axibal says that he has said the C-word 270 times, the other two complain that he always has to overachieve.

This sets up a section where the three men list the various stereotypes attributed to each of their ethnicities (such as the overachieving Asian).

They compare their individual experiences growing up, and learning first that they were different and then how those differences would set them apart in a predominately white world. (“You don’t know how to hate yourself when you’re 8 years old,” says Axibal. “That’s what school is for!”)

They talk about the things that they tried to do to blend in with their surroundings. In a funny monologue, Gregley talks about growing up in California and the culture shock he received when his mother moved the family to Georgia, where he had to learn to “be black,” when he was not accepted by his peers because looked and sounded too Californian.

Axial recalls how his mother promised him she would raise the money so he could have “the operation,” which he explains is the slitting of his eye-lids to make his eyes look more rounded, and more “western.”

Agustin shows headshots of himself as a blonde, when he bleached his hair to give himself a chance at being cast in shows when directors felt he looked too Latin.

In the end, the audience sees how we are all more alike than we are different, if we open ourselves to dialog with others.

N*W*C* is a funny show with a powerful message, the message being that everything really is all about race: the human race.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Imaginary Invalid

Warning: Attending a production at the Woodland Opera House any time between now and February 10 could be hazardous to your health. I’m serious. I will not be responsible for anybody who suffers convulsions of laughter, splitting of sides, or inability to breathe because of laughing.

The Opera House is presenting a madcap production of Moliere’s classic “The Imaginary Invalid,” translated and adapted by James Magruder and directed by Rodger McDonald, who also plays the title role.

The fun starts as the audience enters the opera house, along with costumed actors, who take their places in the box seats, and along side members of the audience and interact with each other and audience members.

A Nurse Maid, Jenn Smuda-Cotter begins the production with a speech comparing “classic” playwrights Wm. Shakespeare and Moliere and then all hell breaks loose with perhaps the most energetic opening you are likely to see on stage.

The members of the cast are anticipating the arrival of Argan, “the imaginary invalid” and the nonsense begins.

There are not enough superlatives to describe the Rodger McDonald’s Argan, the hypochondriac to end all hypochondriac who revels in reciting the ailments of and treatment of his bowels. Moliere takes lowbrow humor and raises it to new heights, and this translation uses just about every euphemism for the act of emptying one’s bowels as one can find. McDonald handles the slapstick humor beautifully and has a catalog of facial expressions that seems endless.

Amy Vyvlecka is Toinette, Argan’s servant, whose caustic relationship with her master is dependent on the chemistry between the two actors, and it’s a chemistry which works well in this instance. Toinette is the person in the house who really runs things, who knows everybody’s secrets, how to keep them and how and when to reveal them. Vyvlecka is delightful to watch, a real pro at work. She is the character that everyone seems to trust, thus she is enlisted to help Angelique (Marissa Gamble), Argan’s eldest daughter in winning Argan’s permission to marry the love of her life, Cleante (Ben Moroski).

Argan has betrothed his daughter to the son of his doctor, Dr. Diafoirus (Phillip Pitman), Thomas Diafoirus (Mark Garbe), a man repulsive to Angelique, but chosen by her father because, as he freely admits, he wants to be sure to always have a doctor in the house. Garbe beautifully handles the role of the bumbling simpleton trying to remember the flowery speeches his father has written for him, but failing miserably, while his personal mannerisms are grossly distasteful to just about everyone.

Gamble is adorable and spends most of the show lip-locked with Moroski. The two perform an impromptu “opera,” when Cleante poses as a music teacher in order to spend time with his love. In the “opera,” they are able to speak their love to each other, hoping Argan will not be aware of what is transpiring. Moroski is also very funny, with the woebegone look of a lovelorn loon, as he sighs for the love of his lady.

Argan’s second wife, Beline, is played by Anne-Marie Trout. The gold-digging Beline has married the miserly Argan to get his money after his death, but flutters about him like a dutiful wife. He calls her “Mommy” and she speaks baby talk to him until her duplicity is revealed. Trout is very funny and plays the exaggerated Beline to perfection.

Franchesca Jimenez as Louise, Argan’s youngest daughter, is cute as a button and has little to do in Act 1, but gets her chance to shine in Act 2, and shine she does as she feigns terror at her father’s anger.

The hilarity and nonsense of Act 1 is dulled a bit in Act 2, where Moliere takes the chance to present his views of the medical profession of the day (perhaps with good reason, since the playwright died shortly after “Imaginary Invalid” opened!). Jeff Nauer gives a solid performance as Argan’s brother, Beralde, but gets the unhappy task of delivering much the “serious” material and doesn’t get a lot of laughs, because there are none to be had.

However the show ends with a zany ceremony, arranged by Beralde and headed by Smuda-Cotter, and all ends happily.

The feel of this production is greatly enhanced by the fabulous costumes of Laurie Everly-Klassen and wigs of Klassen, Chris Medina, Rachel Klassen.

This a sparkling gem, from first to last. As the Nurse Maid states at the outset, Moliere doesn’t get as much attention as Shakespeare. Based on this Woodland Opera House production, it’s hard to understand why.

THIRDeYE Festival

The University of California Davis Department of Theater and Dance is presenting its annual THIRDeYE Theater Festival, showcasing the work of three talented student playwrights and three student directors at the Wyatt Pavilion Theater, through January 27th.

The plays are written in various UC Davis playwriting and English classes, some taught by Jade McCutcheon, reprising her successful 2007 role as Artistic Director for the festival.

Kellie Raines, who wrote last year’s delightful “Saving Trophies,” is back for her second THIRDeYE experience. This time it’s “Miracle Fish,” directed by Jason Masino, and inspired by a story from the Internet about a pair of men in London who found a fish they claimed had the word “Allah” on it. The men put it on display and people came to view the fish, nicknamed “Miracle Fish.” From this Raines formed the central theme of her play which is how we often look for answers or signs in objects and ephemera that are man made.

Heidi Kendrick is Samira, an aspiring writer suffering from writer’s block and wracked with guilt over an issue which is not revealed until midway through the play. She seeks guidance from a “Magic Eight Ball” (“Should I have told him no?”) Kendrick shines in this piece, nicely conveying her frustration and her reliance on outside objects to give her a sign that will help her make major life decisions.

Thomas (Kevin Ganger), with whom we assume she is romantically involved, arrives with his friend Matt (Roth Wiedrick). The men had been at a club and on their return home during a big storm Thomas asserts it began raining fish. A fish with the likeness of Jesus on it landed on their car windshield and the men plan to put it up for auction on eBay and become rich.

While Matt and Thomas are in the bedroom watching the bids on eBay rise, Samira’s former boyfriend, Steven (Mark Ferrando) arrives. Steven apparently dumped Samira for his Uruguayan boyfriend, Eluid (Nathan Lessa). Revelations are made, decisions are made, and Samira finds her inspiration in an unlikely place.

Scenic design of Samira’s apartment by Kelsey Nix, is particularly nice.

I didn’t feel nearly as bad during intermission following the second play, “Brigid’s Reign,” by John Crosthwaite (directed by Cary Babka), when a large group of people sitting next to me huddled and compared notes, trying to figure out what the play was about. I had difficulty following it myself. While the 8-member cast is strong, the combination of their Irish accents, Wyatt acoustics, and my seat on the side of the stage rather than in front made it difficult to catch large parts of the dialog, which made it nearly impossible to follow the plot.

The play was inspired by testimonies and legends surrounding the Troubles of Northern Ireland from the late 1960's to the mid 1990's. Seannan (Daniel Reano-Koven) loses his wife (Gia Battista) and daughter Brigid (Bridgette Davis) as a result of the violent Irish conflict. Reano-Koven brings an intensity to the role which underscores the pain of his loss, the depth of his guilt, and the anger which fuels the conflict that rages within him.

Seannan and his friend Jared (Bryan Marcus Pham, who has one of the best of the Irish accents)) come to America to stay with relatives. Katie Hulse gives a wonderful performance as Casey, the mother of the transplanted Irish-American family. Cory McDaniel, Ulysees [sic] Morazon and JT Reece are Casey’s sons. "Secrets drive the family apart, but experience brings them closer," says the playwright.

What do the ghosts (the afterlife in general having a huge impact on the play) have to say about the outcome of the living? I’m not exactly sure–and my seatmates at Wyatt Pavilion weren’t sure either!

“Ghost, Bathtub and Windmill,” a comedy by Elise Kane (who appears to have a particular love for bathtubs, as her performance art piece last year was entitled “The Bathtub Experiment”) was directed by Daniel Guttenberg,

Its nine-member cast is headed by Figg (Brian McFadden) and Czewski (Erin Cookston), the ghost of a Polish Holocaust victim, now working as a costumer in a New York theater. McFadden is wonderfully droll and Cookston gives a gentle dignity to the ghost of this little costumer.

Matt Moore is also quite funny as Alastair and Kelly Fleischman sparkles as the diva, Echo. Others in this excellent cast include Geoffry Jenson as Clifford, Alison Stevenson as Minnie, and Stephanie Hankinson, Cody Messick and Daniel Storrow as Producers.

The bathtub features prominently and is the location for some of the funnier bits of physical comedy.

THIRDeYE Theater Festival has once again shown us that talent is alive and vibrant at the Department of Theater and Drama!

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Those seeking something fun to do this rainy weekend need look no further than the Acme Theater Company's production of 'A Thurber Carnival.'

How often do you get a chance to see someone wear a lampshade for a hat?

With Acme founder Dave Burmester gradually divesting himself of company responsibilities, longtime patrons have been concerned by what would happen to the company when he's not around.

'A Thurber Carnival' - directed by Emily Henderson, Daniel 'Pheelyks' Guttenberg, Alicia Hunt, Joshua Nielsen, Anthony Pinto, Jennifer Provenza Wallace, Betsy Raymond, Lisa Voelker and Dara Yazdani - leaves no doubt that Burmester has trained his actors well over the years. The alumni are more than competent to take over the reins of the company, after he directs his final play this summer.

'A Thurber Carnival' consists of 17 sketches based on a selection of Thurber's stories and cartoon captions, including the famous 'The Secret Life of Walter Mitty' and 'The Unicorn in the Garden,' along with lesser-known works. The show ran on Broadway in 1960; Thurber performed - as himself - in the sketch called 'File and Forget,' which rings even more true today, as the ultimate customer service nightmare.

The setting for 'A Thurber Carnival' is a raised scaffolding; a jazz combo - Hannah May, JT Rakitan, James Blake and Jonathan Kelly - occupies its center and performs before the show and during scene changes.

Large versions of Thurber's drawings hang at jaunty angles on the scaffolding, and make a perfect backdrop for the action on stage.

The cast has no weak links: Alex Kravitz, Hope Raymond, Kate McFarland, Delany Pelz, Elliana Bisgaard-Church, John Ramos, Sean Olivares, Vivian Breckenridge, Nathaniel Guttenberg, Emily Tracy and Ethan Jaffe all appear in several sketches.

While each sketch is excellent, little jolts of pleasure here and there raise the experience to 'outstanding.' Raymond, for example, is hilarious as an American woman trying to explain the 'real' plot of 'The Macbeth Murder Mystery' to McFarland. This brief bit could have been one of the less interesting sketches, but Raymond's accent and character make it a total delight.

Kravitz, taking on the Thurber role in 'File and Forget,' is exceptional. Tracy appears here briefly as Jeannette Gaines, and she almost steals the sketch.

Pelz is charming, but as a little girl in 'The Little Girl and the Wolf,' and as a termite in 'The Elephant Who Changed the World.'

Tracy is wonderful as the wife in 'A Couple of Hamburgers.' Jaffe is very funny in 'The Pet Department,' as a television host giving advice for pet owners. (The fireplace in this scene may be the most inventive part of the evening.)

In addition to the major cast, the 'Magic Hands Ensemble' - Geoffrey Albrecht, Kane Chai, Rachel 'Duckie' Cherones, Brandon Raphael, Celsiana Warwick and Genevieve Whitman - portrays everything from tables and ottomans to a potted plant, the flames in a fireplace and, yes, the standing lamp (with a lampshade on someone's head).

The Magic Hands Ensemble also presents an 'Improv Fable' at the start of the second act, during which they act out a sketch chosen at random from a fishbowl.

The opening and closing pieces - 'Word Dance, Part I' and 'Word Dance, Part II' - will be familiar to fans of 'Laugh-In'; this dance and stop-motion for one-liners (actually the captions to Thurber cartoons) was the inspiration for the weekly opening dance party on the 1960s television show.

Once again, Acme delivers a sparkling evening of gentle humor, expertly directed and acted.

Now in its 27th year, the Davis company just gets better and better.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

La Cage aux Folles

Audience members at the Sunday matinee of Davis Musical Theater Company’s production of Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein’s “La Cage aux Folles” had a pleasant surprise in store for them. Since both Friday night’s opening performance and Saturday night’s performance had to be canceled due to the power outage, Sunday afternoon was the actual opening “night” and thus we were treated to the traditional opening night reception, complete with cake and apple cider.

It was a particularly pleasant surprise for the children in the audience.

One might think “La Cage aux Folles” is an odd show to which to take a child. It takes place in a female impersonators’ club on the Riviera and its principal characters are gay, sometimes outrageously so.

But at its heart, “La Cage aux Folles” is a love story. The love of two parents for each other and the love they have for their child, which leads them to make great personal sacrifices for that child; and the love of a young man for a young woman and their desire to get married, despite their disparate backgrounds.

Albin is one of my favorite musical theater characters. He is the headliner, “Zaza” at the nightclub La Cage aux Folles and has been the partner of Georges for 20 years. In Albin we see the pride in who he is and what he is and his hurt when he feels betrayed by his husband and their son, yet his ability to work through that with both imagination and dignity when he sees that their son is in trouble. An actor playing Albin has to be outrageously flamboyant when the role demands it, yet bring great heart to his relationship with Georges and he must make the audience feel his pain as he sings his signature song, “I Am What I Am.” Ryan Adame is such an actor. He nailed the song and his interactions with Georges brought tears to my eyes every time. It was a lovely portrayal.

Newcomer Martin Lehman is Georges, owner and emcee at the nightclub and trying to walk the fine line between his love for his partner of 20 years and his desire to help his son impress his would-be in laws. Lehman gives a solid performance that was always adequate and occasionally better than average. I don’t know who made the make-up decisions for Lehman (I was told that there was no make-up designer for the show), but someone should have helped him to look older than he did. He looked more like son Jean-Michel’s (Clocky McDowell) buddy than his father.

McDowell is a talented actor who had no trouble convincing the audience that he was head over heels in love with his Anne (Kris Farhood). Their “Anne on my Arm” is a lovely dance number. But losing the dark-rimmed glasses, and a bit of make-up magic would make him look less like a middle aged accountant.

Nic Candito is Jacob the outlandish butler/maid and delivers a funny performance whenever he appears on stage.

Anne’s parents are Edouard Dindon (Michael Manley) , the head of the Riviera’s equivalent of the Traditional Values Coalition, and his wife Marie (Monica Parisi). Parisi was the better of the two, while Manley’s acting left some things to be desired. However, he’s lovely in drag.

Mary Young is Jacqueline, friend of Albin and owner of the classy Chez Jacqueline; Marc Valdez and Jan Isaacson play Msr. And Mme. Renaud, owners of a café where Georges attempts to give Albin lessons in how to act like a real man to fool the prospective in-laws.

The production is directed and choreographed by Ron Cisneros. Some of the dance numbers were wonderful (particularly “The Best of Times” and the tap dancing in “We are what we are”) The pace of the show is slow, however, in great measure due to the length of time to change scenery. Some scenes had more life to them than others. And some, like the hors d’oeuvre scene between the two sets of parents, didn’t seem to make much sense (I believe in the original production it’s a dinner scene, which is much more logical.)

It is also rare that I find much to complain about in Jean Henderson’s costume design and she did have some gorgeous gowns for Albin, but the opening number by the Cagelles, in which they talk about their glitter and glitz was done in flowing multi-colored costumes that looked like badly fitting pajamas. I question whether a self-respecting drag queen would wear them to bed, much less to perform what is supposed to be a glitzy dance number. The later costumes with suitable feathers and glitter were much more appropriate.

I love this show and I think DMTC does a reasonably good job with it. As always a show that is designed to be a Broadway show-stopper is hampered by a lack of funding and a small cast. But given what they had available, there were enough good reasons to see the show – and if the weather will cooperate, there won’t be any power outages preventing that from happening!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Riverdance Farewell Tour

Riverdance is finally saying farewell.

Sort of.

It’s saying farewell to the United States, but taking 3 years to do it, wanting to say goodbye to every city where it’s played before. But it still hasn’t been to South America or Africa so there will be tours there in the foreseeable future and there is already a “farewell tour” traveling around Europe, another trip to China planned. There is talk of a permanent production in Dubai.

So although the performance at the Sacramento Community Theater (an 11-day, 16-performance run, which is almost sold out already) is Riverdance’s farewell to Sacramento, I think it’s fair to say that it will be a very long time until those crazy tap dancing Irishmen finally hang up their tap shoes!

Riverdance began in 1994 as a 7 minute filler act for the Eurovision Songfest, which was hosted that year by Ireland. The host country traditionally provides the entertainment while the votes are being tallied. With the talents of Michael Flatley and Jean Butler and the music of Bill Whelan, the original “Riverdance” was conceived. The number was broadcast to some 300 million viewers and was such a hit that producer Moya Doherty, composer Whelan and director John McClogan expanded the piece into a full length stage production.

“Riverdance–the Show” had its world premiere at the Point Theater in Dublin in February 1995 and to date has played over 10,000 performance and been seen live by more than 21 million people in over 300 venues in 32 countries and across 4 continents. The show has traveled well over 500,000 miles, played to a worldwide television audience of nearly 2 billion, sold over 2.5 million copies of the Grammy Award winning COULD and over 9 million videos, making it one of the best selling entertainment videos in the world.

If you’ve never seen Riverdance, the farewell tour will knock your socks off. If you’ve seen it, best to set aside all memories of previous performances and concentrate on this one because who could possibly match the flying feet of Michael Flatley or even the amazing dancing fiddling of Niamh Ni Charra, seen the last time the show played Sacramento in 2001. Fiddler Pat Mangan is has a delightfully engaging twinkle in his eye as he walks around the stage, but he doesn’t dance.

Riverdance has gone more high tech now, too, with projections to set the scene, such as the rocky structures of ancient times, the Norman columns of less ancient times, or the pastoral scenes indicating the failure of the land, leading to a mass migration out of Ireland, while the sonorous voice of John Kavanaugh booms out, setting the mood for the next scene.

The heart of Riverdance is its dance numbers. The now-familiar ramrod straight upper torsos and the inhumanely precise furiously tapping feet are never more spectacular than when all dancers are stretched out across the stage in a chorus line that rivals the Rockettes. There is also a mic along the edge of the stage so all those taps are amplified to get the most out of them. If you like tap, you’ll love this. If you don’t like tap, this is not the show for you!

Leading the dancers on opening night are Marty Dowds and Alana Mallon (the leads will alternate throughout the run). Dowds has legs which often seem to have the consistency of rubber bands as he taps furiously, perhaps at its best in “Thunderstorm,” a piece for the male dancers.

Also outstanding is the second act “Trading Taps,” with Dowds, along with Craig Ashurst and Marcus Maloney (now having immigrated to the United States), engaging in what might be called a “tap rumble” with a couple of African American street kids, Parker Hall and Jason Bernard.

Riverdance also demonstrates the similarities of Irish dances with and influences on other cultures. Thus Carmen Armengou brings a fiery flamenco to the stage danced in a pool of red light and backed by a projection of the sun, and of tongues of fire.

Members of the Moscow Folk Ballet Company, led by Yuri Zhivoglotov and Anna Brovkina bring high energy and high leaps and some circle dancing that relies heavily on centrifugal force.

The Riverdance singers provide soothing and sometimes downright delicious harmonies, led by the clear soprano of Laura Yanez. In Act 2, baritone Michel Bell brings down the house with his “Heal Their Hearts.”

Lighting designer Rupert Murray also deserves high praise for making lighting a principal “character” in this production. Shafts of light flashing across the stage before the finale are a light show in themselves.

If you are one of those rare individuals who has never seen Riverdance, treat yourself (if you can get tickets) to see this production. If you have seen it before, you’ll enjoy seeing it again. The whole thing may have become a bit too mechanized after 14 years, but it’s still an enjoyable evening.