New York — When Julian Erskine last saw the American touring company of “Riverdance,” he had to smile.
He was in the Segerstrom Center for the Arts on an October night in Costa Mesa, Calif., watching the high-stepping cast electrify the crowd once again despite more than a dozen years crisscrossing the nation.
“To be at the back of a hall with the audience jumping to their feet at the end of the show after all these years, it’s just so gratifying and just so pleasing,” says Erskine, the show’s senior executive producer, by phone from Dublin.
Even so, the end of the road is nearing. “Riverdance” is currently on an 82-city farewell North American tour that’s winding across the U.S. and Canada and ends in June. This month, the show left Texas, hit the Southeast and next goes to the Plains.
“It’s certainly emotional to be saying goodbye,” says Erskine.
The show has been touring continuously in North America since 1996, sometimes with two companies simultaneously. While organizers insist there’s still interest in the U.S., new markets beckon in South America, India and China.
The touring company includes six principal dancers, 18 troupe dancers, a live five-piece band, flamenco dancer and two American tap dancers, one of whom is also a baritone soloist.
Padraic Moyles, one of the principals, is dancing with a heavy heart. He joined “Riverdance” in 1997 and fell in love with his co-star and now wife, Niamh O’Connor, while in the show. While he has performed elsewhere, he says American audiences are special.
“Riverdance” opened at Dublin’s Point Theatre on Feb. 9, 1995, at a time of renewed Irish optimism and pride surrounding the onset of the booming “Celtic Tiger” economy. Years of relative poverty were disappearing and being Irish had a new cool, thanks to a new generation of athletes and musicians like U2 and The Cranberries.
The final North American tour — at least for now — will take the show to such Irish-heavy cities as Chicago, Kansas City, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Boston, and will conclude at Wolf Trap National Park in Vienna, Va., which will represent the 14th time “Riverdance” has played there.