We talked with lead dancer Patrick O'Mahony from the 25th aniversary production of the iconic Riverdance. This amazing world champion dancer (who's currently single!) talks about the new production of the show; and shares why Saran Wrap is his go-to travel item - and how underwear became part of his show preparation each night.
O'Mahony is a native of Rusheen, Ballylongford, Co Kerry. He began his dance training at age two with Rinceoiri Na Riochta. He has many titles and he became All-Ireland champion in 1995. Moving to Virginia in 2004, he spent eight years dancing with Irish Thunder in Busch Gardens, Williamsburg. In Europe, he toured extensively with Gaelforce and performed in the Breandan De Gallai productions Noctu and the Rite of Spring.
Patrick joined Riverdance in 2012 and went on to become Lead Dancer and has toured extensively with the show.
RIVERDANCE 25th ANNIVERSARY plays at Broadway In Chicago’s Cadillac Palace Theatre (151 W. Randolph) for a limited one-week engagement from February 4 – 9, 2020.
Riverdance broke all box office records during its world première run in Dublin in early 1995. The show transferred to London and a hugely successful tour starting in New York, where 8 sold-out shows at Radio City Music Hall heralded the start of two decades of touring by Riverdance companies throughout North America.
MI: Patrick, congratulations on the tour! So what's it like to dance in such an iconic show that's 100% about awe-inspiring dance? What's your favorite part of performing each night?
PO: Well my favorite number would have to be the iconic Riverdance number. As soon as that music comes on it's amazing!
In the new production this year; the visuals and the remastered music; I get goosebumps. I would always get goosebumps doing the show, but this is just on another level. And then there are new visuals on the background; just looking at the visuals is amazing.
Riverdance - Thunderstorm, by Jack Hartin
And the crowds have been amazing. We opened in Montreal and people are already on their feet before we even finish the show.
MI: That's always a great feeling! Riverdance is celebrating its 25th year. In fact you're here during the actual anniversary of the first show, which was February 9th in 1995. You've been with the production almost 8 of those years - what do audiences love about the show that keeps them coming back for more?
PO: Well the show is very timeless and very classic. That's the only way I can describe it. It's not glitz and glam. We have a brand new set. I didn't know what the set looked like or anything but when I saw it I was like, "they nailed it!"
It's modern, but yet it is traditional and it's just a timeless piece. It will go on and on and on and the music and the costumes, the dancing, everything, everything is just amazing about it.
MI: So take us back a little bit. Where is home and how did you get started in entertainment?
PO: Home is County Carey in Ireland and I started dancing when I was about a year and a half. My aunt, my two aunts actually, used to dance; and my mom and my grandma used to bring me to their dancing class and they saw that I would be bopping to the music and keeping time to the music, so they just put me into dance class - my first dance class I had a diaper and a bottle hanging out of my mouth and yeah, I actually don't know what it's like not to dance. I don't remember starting and I've continued since.
MI: That's awesome. Your aunts, your mom and your grandmother; so they were definitely the inspiration and mentors to get you on this path. That's awesome!
PO: Yeah, and then I kind of took it a little bit further than my aunts did like they used to do it and back then it wasn't really, I mean Riverdance wasn't out then and they had no vision of where dancing was going so they kind of gave it up, but I kept going and I traveled to America and England for competitions and then kind of got in. You've got different kind of championships and so I made it to the world championships and came in fourth in the world.
MI: That's pretty cool. So fourth in the world, they are probably all so super proud of you.
PO: Oh yeah, of course they are!
MI: So before going on stage for any show, are you superstitious? Is there anything you have to do before a performance for luck?
Riverdance - Trading Taps, by Jack Hartin
PO: Yeah, I do! Right, so where do I start?
So I get ready, obviously, makeup and hair is done and then I got to put my earphones in and do my own warmup and listen to certain music and then when I'm getting ready for the show I have certain underwear that I wear when I'm doing the lead show, which is really strange but it is the first underwear that I wore when I did my very first lead show so I wear that constantly.
Obviously they are washed! Then I do a ritual side stage before I go out. I bless myself and I look up into the rafters of theatre and say my own little prayer and I'll kiss my hand and I touch the floor with my hand and then I know that I am kind of connected with the floor. Everyone has their own little thing.
MI: Absolutely, absolutely. Well, now of course we have to follow that up with: boxers or briefs?
PO: Boxers, of course!
MI: So you have family and possibly close ties to Chicago?
PO: Yeah, they live in Jefferson Park on the North Side. The one of my aunts that used to dance, she lives there now and they've got two kids and my uncle lives there and he's got two kids. My grandfather lives there. He moved out there like 70 years ago.
So I'm hoping to one day call Chicago home for myself as well. I always feel at home when I'm in Chicago!
MI: So what do you love the most about the city?
PO: It's got an Irish feel about it without being Ireland. You know Ireland - you don't know whether it's gonna be raining or snowing; whereas in Chicago you know you are going to get your winter, your spring, your summer at least you know you are gonna get your seasons. Especially where my aunt lives, Jefferson Park is very, it is still considered the city but it is still very kind of rural, you know?
MI: Exactly! While you are here on tour, what's going to be on your top three list of things to do in Chicago?
PO: That is funny cause everyone always asks “Do you go downtown?” and when I get to Chicago I always just spend time with my family and I'm never downtown and so yeah my number one priority will be staying with my family and hanging out with them and getting a deep dish from Lou Malnati's.
That is always my go to dish when I get to Chicago, yeah.
I've done all of the site seeing and stuff down there. Like I'm not really, I wouldn't say I am a tourist anymore. I've done all of that several times.
MI: Looking forward to moving to Chicago?
RD; Yeah, I can't wait. Hopefully in the next year or two!
MI: Ok, we're going to get personal for the next few questions. What is your relationship status? Do you have a spouse or currently dating?
Riverdance, by Jack Hartin
PO: I'm single, recently single.
MI: Recently single?
PO: Yeah, we broke up in August. He's is also a dancer and it was just very hard with, he travels with work and I travel with work, but we are still good friends!
MI: So we are going to play a little matchmaker here. What are some of the things you look for in a mate when it comes to dating?
PO: Someone who is nice, obviously. Someone who is career oriented. Career-driven.
MI: Someone else in the theatre or entertainment industry?
PO: No, not necessarily, but I'd like someone to understand my schedule, you know, and how things work on the road and is ok with that. It is very hard to be in a relationship and be on the road cause you are gone away for so long. This is a six month tour and you have to come out and visit and stuff but it's not the same.
MI: Yeah definitely. So if someone were to walk around your home today what is something in your home that would make a stranger think you were gay?
PO: My room.
MI: Anything specific in the room?
PO: I like interior design, so I have a big black velvet, diamond-button headboard with all of these LED lights and shelves.
MI: I love it!
PO: Crazy wall paper, and yeah, you'd probably walk into my room and be like “ok, a gay guy lives here.”
MI: While you are on tour, name something that you just can't live without?
PO: So this is kind of a funny one. I travel with Saran Wrap. I make poached eggs every morning, so Saran Wrap, I am looking at it right now it is in my suitcase. So basically if we don't have breakfast in the hotel, or the breakfast is not what I want, I'll go out and I'll buy eggs and I'll come back and I put it into a bit of Saran Wrap and then I put the Saran Wrap and the eggs into a kettle and I boil the kettle and obviously the water doesn't melt the plastic and then you get perfectly good poached eggs in the morning.
MI: Love that tip!
PO: Yeah, for anyone out there traveling and in hotels all of the time, bring Saran Wrap with you and then you can put your spinach, if you buy spinach, into the kettle and you can have eggs and spinach in the morning.
PO: And irons make pretty good toasted sandwiches as well.
MI: (Laughing) I've heard that one before, but that is an indispensable travel tip too!
Finally, tell us about a moment onstage that you will never ever forget.
PO: One that thing that sticks in my head is dancing for Michelle Obama in Ireland. Herself and the two kids.
They hired out the theatre in Dublin, the iconic Gaety? Theatre and they invited underpriveledged kids to the show that could never afford to see the show or would never have a chance to come see the show and we did the whole show for her and looking up and seeing her face there was unreal and then we got to meet her afterwards.
MI: O.M.G., how was that?
PO: Yeah it was pretty epic! It was like she just had this aura about her. And the nicest woman you could ever [meet]. She was so pleasant to speak to and a few weeks later, we got a picture sent to our house from the White House and it was stamped at the back and it had her signature on it. It was amazing!
Individual tickets for RIVERDANCE 25th ANNIVERSARY SHOW range in price from $32 – $90. Individual tickets are available by calling (800) 775-2000 or by visiting BroadwayInChicago.com. Tickets are available for groups of 10 or more by calling Broadway In Chicago Group Sales at (312) 977-1710.
About Broadway in Chicago: A Nederlander Presentation, Broadway In Chicago, lights up the Chicago Theater District entertaining more than 1.7 million people annually in five theatres. Broadway In Chicago presents a full range of entertainment, including musicals and plays, on the stages of five of the finest theatres in Chicago’s Loop including CIBC Theatre, James M. Nederlander Theatre, Cadillac Palace Theatre, and just off the Magnificent Mile, the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place and presenting Broadway shows at the Auditorium Theatre.