herald

Saturday 20 July 2019

Spider-Man inspired Riverdance revamp

Robert Ballagh. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Robert Ballagh. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Spider-Man in a scene from the musical

ARTIST Robert Ballagh has revealed how the U2 Spider-Man musical on Broadway inspired his reworking on Riverdance.

The acclaimed painter designed the original sets for the world conquering Irish dancing spectacular, which has been seen by 23 million people since it debuted in Dublin in 1995.

But Ballagh has told how a visit to New York last year to see the most expensive musical ever staged, Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, provided ideas for a revamp of Riverdance for producers Moya Doherty and John McColgan in a production which will open at the Gaiety Theatre next month.

"They say you should never come out of the theatre humming the set, but I did leave Spider-Man going 'wow'. It really was a superb production and made me realise just how things can be updated," Robert Ballagh told the Herald.

Stressing that punters come to enjoy the dancing and music in Riverdance, the 65-year-old said the show's choreography and soundtrack by composer Bill Whelan would remain the same, but new backgrounds displayed on the same kind of LCD screens used in Spider-Man, would enrich the experience for the audience.

"When we started 20 years ago, the images I painted were projected from either in front or behind the dancers. The problems with that was the dancers onstage would sometimes walk into the beam and end up being projected onto the screen.

"That can't happen with these new LCD screens which light up the stage in the way they do on advertisement billboards in Time Square. It's quite spectacular but remains a background to support performance and text," he said

The new Riverdance opens in the Gaiety Theatre on June 27.

hnews@herald.ie

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