On Thursday, Sept. 22, the new generation of Irish rock and dance began when ROCKIN’ ROAD TO DUBLIN inaugurated its 60-city national tour with a performance at the McGregor Hall Performing Arts Center in Henderson, NC. The entrepreneurs and co-creators who brought the show to life are Celtic rocker CHRIS SMITH and Irish Dance World Champion SCOTT DOHERTY.
“We bring a wee bit of Dublin with a rockin’ edge to the stage,” explains Smith, who has gathered an elite class of musicians to perform in the ROCKIN’ ROAD TO DUBLIN band:
- JOHN BALDWIN (bass player, The American Rogues),
- KEVEN EKNES (an award-winning guitarist from Norway),
- MARITA MAY (classically trained on violin since age 5; Celtic Fyre),
- KELLY MILLS (five-time winner of the Drum Corps and Percussion World Championships),
- MIKE MOORE (Busch Gardens and Kings Dominion),
- JOE SCHERMANN (“Guys and Dolls,” “White Christmas,” “Grease,” “Smokey Joe’s Café,” and “Shout”),
- COREY WALDEN (The American Rogues, and founder of The Suzuki School of Milford).
“It’s truly the music that gets the audience on their feet,” insists Doherty (“Riverdance” and “Lord of the Dance”), who has worked his own magic choreographing the critically acclaimed show. The 2009 Men’s World Champion of Irish Dance, Doherty made his professional debut in 2005 with the North American tour of Michael Flatley’s “Riverdance,” and also has toured the world with “Lord of the Dance.”
The show’s star power continues with ROCKIN’ ROAD TO DUBLIN’s two lead vocalists — MEGAN LYNN BROWNING (Harley Boone) and BRETT BENOWITZ (Born Blue).
“The lyrics of the songs tell a love story that weaves together the music and dance,” explains the show’s director, Broadway choreographer JEFF WHITING (“The Producers,” and “Bullets Over Broadway”). “Our goal is to have the audience walk away having had an experience that is entertaining, uplifting, and inspirational.”
Music supervision, arrangements, and orchestrations are by BRENT FREDERICK; original costume design is by SARAH COFFEY and ASHLEY WILSON; lighting is by CAROLYN WONG; scenic design is by BRIAN BARKER; and sound consultation is by TREY SMITH.
Of course, ROCKIN’ ROAD TO DUBLIN wouldn’t be the show it is without the Irish dancing. For the cast, choreographer Doherty chose three-time international Irish dance champion ASHLEY SMITH to be his lead female dancer. On stage since the age of 3, at 16, Smith (no relation to Chris) was crowned the World Irish Step Dancing Champion in Belfast in 2004 — making her the youngest American female ever to win the world title at that time. A top-30 female finalist on the hit TV show “So You Think You Can Dance,” Smith was a featured dancer on the Oscar-nominated film “Silver Linings Playbook.”
Rounding out the cast are other well-known Irish dancers:
- COLIN BARKELL has earned three regional titles, a fourth-place finish at the North American Championships, and an eighth-place finish at the World Championships. He has been the lead dancer in Rhythm of the Dance and Celtic Fyre and is also a member of the Hammerstep Dance Crew.
- MARK CHICHESTER won the All England Tap Championship, All England National Championship, and was crowned UK’s Young Tap Dancer of the Year. He went on to join the cast of “Excalibur: The Celtic Rock Opera,” “Gaelforce Dance,” “Dance Masters,” “Celtic Dream,” and “Rhythm of the Dance,” as well as Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance.”
- DECLAN CROWLEY is an eight-time Mid-Atlantic, two-time National, and All-Ireland champion. He also won the coveted Minor Belt National Championship in 2005, and has placed within the top three in the world times over. Crowley’s filmography credits include “Feet of Flames RAW” (2010), “Irish Celtic Generations — Live in Paris” (2016), and “West Side Story: Mashup” (HBO, 2012).
- BERNADETTE DEVEREAUX has won multiple titles during her competitive career, including winning first place at her Regional Championships five times, placing in the top five at the National Championships, and placing at the World Championships. She toured with Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance” and achieved her dream of dancing the lead, performing alongside Flatley.
- MEGAN KIRK DRAKE first began touring with Celtic Legends and has since performed with Atlantic Steps, A Gaelic Gathering, Raglan Road at Disney World, and in “Rhythm of the Dance,” where she performed as principal female dancer. She has competed at the World Championship level and placed in the top five in the Western US Region multiple times.
- PATRICK HOLLAND, a two-time Mid-American champion, has placed as high as fourth in the North American Championships, and 10th in the World Championships. Holland has performed with various productions, including Cherish the Ladies, Michael Londra’s Celtic Fire, and The Chieftains.
- BILLY KANALY has been a professional Irish dancer for eight years, performing around the world, including four years as a cast member of “Riverdance.”
- EMILY MACCONNELL has achieved competitive career highs of eighth in the world, third nationally, and first in her own and Southern England regions. She has danced and toured both nationally and internationally with “Magic of the Dance,” and “An Irish Christmas.”
- ERIKA NIELSEN has competitively achieved Southern Region Oireachtas Champion three times, top five at the North American Nationals, and medaled at the All Ireland and World Championships. She also performed in Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games.”
- TYLER SCHWARTZ has won many dance titles, including the Midwest Regional Championship, the All-Ireland Championship, All-Scotland Championship, North American Championship, and Great-Britain Championship, and he won the Senior Men’s World Championship in 2013. He has been principal lead dancer for the Magic of the Dance, and “Gaelforce Dance.”
- CIARA STILLSON has performed with renowned Irish music acts, including Solas, Eileen Ivers, and Cherish the Ladies. For three years she danced in Celtic Fyre at Busch Gardens and recently graduated magna cum laude from Gorham High School.
- MAIRÉAD STILLSON has spent the last seven years as a principal dancer and dance captain of Busch Gardens’ Celtic Fyre. She recently performed the lead role of Morrighan in Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games.”
Learn more about the musicians and creative team here. Click here to see when the show is coming to your city. Be sure to read our Q&A with the creators and producers of the show, Scott Doherty and Chris Smith.