“What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” That’s the fridge door quote that sits on my Kenmore next to Eleanor Roosevelt’s famous suggestion, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”
I find that these daily reminders to be brave are essential to staying buoyant and focused as an entrepreneur. After all, when dealing with the uncertainty of business, it’s not always easy to keep small-business dreams alive.
That’s why this month we are excited to feature entrepreneurs Chris Smith and Scott Doherty, the creators and producers of Rockin’ Road to Dublin. The hit Irish dance and rock show embarked on a 60-city tour on Sept. 22, which is taking them around the country.
In this issue of Be Inkandescent magazine, you’ll learn how they are making their dream of bringing the new generation of Irish dance to audiences nationwide. You’ll meet some of the 34 members of the cast and crew — including Broadway director Jeff Whiting and three-time world Irish dance champion Ashley Smith.
What’s it like to be in a bus traveling the country from show to show? You’ll get an inside glimpse thanks to Irish dancer and cast member Billy Kanaly. He is also a professional videographer, and on the tour he is creating a weekly webTV series that takes us behind the scenes. Click here to watch.
Are you living your dream? If not, take a tip from entertainer and entrepreneur extraordinaire Walt Disney, who said: “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
Are You Ready to Take on the Rockin' Road to Dublin?
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 CHRISSMITH and Irish Dance World Champion SCOTTDOHERTY.
“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:
JOHNBALDWIN (bass player, The American Rogues),
KEVENEKNES (an award-winning guitarist from Norway),
MARITAMAY (classically trained on violin since age 5; Celtic Fyre),
KELLYMILLS (five-time winner of the Drum Corps and Percussion World Championships),
MIKEMOORE (Busch Gardens and Kings Dominion),
JOESCHERMANN (“Guys and Dolls,” “White Christmas,” “Grease,” “Smokey Joe’s Café,” and “Shout”),
COREYWALDEN (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 — MEGANLYNNBROWNING (Harley Boone) and BRETTBENOWITZ (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 JEFFWHITING (“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 BRENTFREDERICK; original costume design is by SARAHCOFFEY and ASHLEYWILSON; lighting is by CAROLYNWONG; scenic design is by BRIANBARKER; and sound consultation is by TREYSMITH.
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 ASHLEYSMITH 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:
COLINBARKELL 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.
MARKCHICHESTER 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.”
DECLANCROWLEY 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).
BERNADETTEDEVEREAUX 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.
MEGANKIRKDRAKE 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.
PATRICKHOLLAND, 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.
BILLYKANALY has been a professional Irish dancer for eight years, performing around the world, including four years as a cast member of “Riverdance.”
EMILYMACCONNELL 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.”
ERIKANIELSEN 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.”
TYLERSCHWARTZ 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.”
CIARASTILLSON 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.
MAIRÉADSTILLSON 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.”
Living the Dream: ROCKIN’ ROAD TO DUBLIN Takes Audiences by Storm
The era of Irish dance-themed stage productions — which has given us “Riverdance,” “Lord of the Dance,” and “Atlantic Steps,” among others — brings us a new national show: ROCKIN’ ROAD TO DUBLIN, which began its 60-city tour on Sept. 22 with a performance in Henderson, NC.
For former World Irish Dance Champion Scott Doherty and musician Chris Smith, this dream-come-true began more than five years ago in an unlikely setting — a gym.
Scroll down for our Q&A!
Be Inkandescent: Chris, let’s start with you. How long has ROCKIN’ ROAD TO DUBLIN been performing?
Chris Smith: From the genesis of the concept to the 2016-17 national tour, ROCKIN’ ROAD TO DUBLIN has been in the works for more than five years. We’ve been performing the show for three years now, and it’s amazing that the idea Scott and I had one day when we were working out in a gym in 2010 is now a 60-city tour.
Be Inkandescent: Take us back to that day in the gym. What inspired an Irish musician and a world champion Irish dancer to create the next generation of Irish dance?
Chris Smith: We were talking about managers we have had at past jobs, some good and some not so good. We both talked about how we would love to create our own show so that we could run it our way and make the right decisions when it came to show quality as well as how to treat our employees and performers. Both of us already had our own ideas on shows that we would like to create.
The more we discussed these ideas with each other, the more one concept came to light: It was based on fusing our two ideas together to create a live-music Irish dance show with a rock concert feel. What got us the most excited was that this idea had never been done before, so it would stand out in the pack of not just Irish dance shows, but live entertainment shows in general.
Over the next few months we started to come up with ideas for who and what would be in the show — songs we could perform as well as performers and designers we knew who might want to become involved in our project. After a year of talking and creating, we decided it was time to bring the concept to life. I got on the phone and booked a theater a year from that point, which was going to be January 2014, and we were off! We spent that year creating numbers for the show, writing music, getting designers involved, and creating the basis of this show. We premiered the show at the Ferguson Center for the Arts in Newport News, VA, in January 2014.
Be Inkandescent: Where did you and Scott meet?
Chris Smith: Scott and I first met working at Busch Gardens Williamsburg theme park. The majority of the performers, designers, and technicians involved with this show/company have all worked there at some point.
Be Inkandescent: Scott, you are a former Irish World Dance champion. After making your professional debut in 2005 in the North American tour of “Riverdance,” you went on world tours with “Riverdance” and Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance,” and then performed as Lorcan, the lead role in “Gaelforce Dance” in its 2012-13 tours of Europe and Asia.
You have also appeared in the Irish dance shows at Busch Gardens, and in concert with acts such as The Irish Tenors, Cherish the Ladies, Michael Londra, and Andy Cooney. That’s quite a resume. What inspired you to create a show that has been described as “Irish dance meets a rock concert”?
Scott Doherty: The idea for the ROCKIN’ ROAD TO DUBLIN show came through a series of conversations that Chris and I had about shows we would love to see. I’m an Irish dancer and Chris is a musician who’s played all types of shows, including Irish genres, so we had a lot of similar ideas. We wanted to make a modern show that would speak to people of every age. We thought, “Hey, let’s make Irish dancing cool again.” Why not do Irish dancing with music played by electric guitars, two full drum kits, stuff like that that no one’s done anything like before. And after about three years of work and dedication, we had a show.
Be Inkandescent: So what’s the show like? Is there a plot or narrative of some kind?
Scott Doherty: There’s not a full-on story line to the show, although some numbers tell a story within themselves. We wanted to make a show that people can come to and just be entertained. There are definitely rock elements in the show, but that’s not all ROCKIN’ ROAD TO DUBLIN is centered around. There are softer, slower numbers that everyone enjoys, as well as upbeat dance numbers. We wanted to make sure that we didn’t overlook the great traditional core that Irish music has, and I think we’ve found the perfect balance that everyone will enjoy.
Be Inkandescent: What kind of response have you had so far?
Scott Doherty: When we debuted ROCKIN’ ROAD TO DUBLIN in Newport News, VA, in 2014, it was an amazing success. The feedback we got was incredible. Everyone, old and young, all loved the show. People definitely seem to get what we’re trying to do. We’re not trying to reinvent Irish dance shows, we’re just making it cool and relevant again, and in a way that no one has really done before. The fact that people loved it was confirmation that we need to bring the show to bigger and better levels.
Be Inkandescent: How large is your troupe of performers?
Chris Smith: For this national tour, our 24-person cast of performers includes two vocalists, eight live musicians, and a troupe of 14 dancers.
Be Inkandescent: Who devises the dance routines and chooses the playlist?
Chris Smith: Scott and I collectively come up with the numbers together. I do a lot of the research on the music, and Scott comes up with the dance choreography. Together we come up with the idea for each number and what we feel best fits the mood of the music for each number as well as the mood and story of the show.
Be Inkandescent: What is your audition and selection process for the dancers?
Scott Doherty: The world of entertainment is small, and the world of Irish dancing is even smaller. I have performed in many major Irish dance shows over the years and met many extremely talented dancers. For these first few years of shows, we have been able to bring in friends of ours as well as fellow dance colleagues with whom we have worked in the past who are now part of the birth of this show. As the show and our company expand, we plan to have auditions for new dancers, as well as other performers, to join our team.
Be Inkandescent: Scott, tell us more about your background. How did you get into Irish dancing? And what was it like to perform in “Riverdance”?
Scott Doherty: After my brother started touring with “Lord of the Dance,” I knew that was what I wanted to do as well. So I sent my name, resume, and a video to all of the big shows, and one day I was lucky enough that “Riverdance” called me to join them. That jump-started my professional career of dancing in shows. It was a dream come true. To get into a show usually depends on what other shows you’ve been in and what your competition results are like. I had done all right in competition, so I was lucky to get into “Riverdance” back in 2005. It wasn’t until after I’d been touring for a few years that I actually won the 2009 World Irish Dancing Championships.
Be Inkandescent: What do you see as the biggest impact of “Riverdance” and “Lord of the Dance”?
Scott Doherty: “Riverdance” and “Lord of the Dance” definitely paved the way for Irish dancing and how it’s known today. If it weren’t for those shows, people would barely even know what Irish dancing is. Now it’s a worldwide phenomenon that people can’t get enough of. It’s amazing.
Be Inkandescent: What has it been like being one of the guys in charge, as opposed to just being a member of the cast?
Scott Doherty: This is the first time I’ve been hands-on with a production from the very beginning. Chris and I are literally doing everything: show design, performing, office work, setting up the business, and handling contracts. It’s like a crash course in learning how to run a company, but we’re loving it. We also have an unbelievable cast and crew. If it weren’t for them, none of this would be possible.
Be Inkandescent: Tell us about an especially memorable performance venue.
Chris Smith: We have been very fortunate to have performed in great venues with amazing crowd response and support. Scott and I are so lucky to have so many people believe in us and our dream. One stand-out memory is when we performed in Andover, MA, during a massive blizzard in February 2015. There were 10-foot-tall snowdrifts, airports were shut down — it was crazy! We performed two shows there and both shows were sold out.
More than 1,100 people per show came out in the blizzard to watch us and gave us so much love and support. It was amazing to have people willing to do it because they believe in us and our product.
Be Inkandescent: Has there been a particularly memorable or unusual experience at your performances?
Chris Smith: We are very much a “glass half full” type of company. When something goes wrong or something breaks, we quickly find a way to fix it and move on in a positive way. There was one performance where we showed up at the venue, and no crew showed up to unload the truck and help us set up the show. Instead of freaking out, we quickly got on the phone, got all the performers to come in, asked all of our friends and family in the area to come help, ordered some pizza, and went to work! We got the show up and running and performed an amazing show that night despite the setback.
Be Inkandescent: What would you like audiences to take away from your show?
Scott Doherty: This show is a lot of fun, excitement, and energy. We just want everyone to enjoy it. We bring a perfect balance of musical theater, live rock concert, and Irish dancing together in a brand new way that will leave you excited and wanting more!
Be Inkandescent: What are your plans for the future of the company?
Chris Smith: We want to bring this show to everyone. This national tour is our first step toward this goal. This will pave the way to many future tours, including Europe, South America, as well as many other places. We can’t wait to share this fun and exciting show with as many people as possible all over the world.
JEFFWHITING is the Director of Rockin’ Road to Dublin. A man with many credits, he has been the Associate Director on Broadway productions Big Fish, Bullets Over Broadway (six Tony Nominations), Hair (Tony Best Revival) and Wicked (Fifth Anniversary).
Scott Doherty is the Co-Creator, Executive Producer, Choreographer, Lead Dancer of Rockin’ Road to Dublin. The 2009 Men’s World Champion of Irish Dance, Scott made his professional debut in 2005 with the North American tour of Riverdance.
Megan Lynn Browning is the Lead Vocalist of the 2016-17 tour of Rockin’ Road to Dublin. The “fiery soul singer” started professionally at the age of 16 and quickly found a deep love of Irish music and culture.
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. What made this very tall, talented man want to become an Irish dancer
Chris Smith is the co-creator, executive producer, and lead percussionist of “Rockin’ Road to Dublin. A lifelong musician and performer, he has toured the world with one of the top Celtic rock bands, “The American Rogues.
Alice: “There is no use trying; one can’t believe impossible things.” The Queen: “I dare say you haven’t had much practice. When I was your age, I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” — Lewis Carroll
Born in Newport Beach, CA, rocker Brett Benowitz moved to NYC in 2011 after graduating from the University of Georgia with a degree in Fine Arts. When he moved to the Big Apple, he became a leading man before embarking on Rockin’ Road to Dublin’s 60-city tour.
Ashley Smith ibegan taking Irish dance lessons from her father and mother in Boston, MA at the age of 3, and by 16 was crowned the World Irish Step Dancing Champion in Ireland — making her the youngest American female ever to win the world title at that time.
Don’t miss Irish dancer / videographer Billy Kanaly’s new weekly webTV show, which chronicles the cast and crew of “Rockin’ Road to Dublin” as it makes its way around the country on its 2016-17 60-city tour.