You take the high road and we’ll take the ROCK ROAD!! And we’ll be standing at the world’s first hybrid crossroads of Irish Dance and Rock-N-Roll! Join us in a TheatreBloom exclusive interview as we chat with Co-Creator Scott Doherty about Rockin’ Road to Dublin before it swoops into Baltimore for its one-night engagement at The Hippodrome Theatre.
Thanks so much for giving us a few seconds of your time, just looking at the show’s tour schedule, we can see you’re super busy! If you could get started by telling us who you are, what your involvement with the show is, and maybe a little something fun about yourself, we’ll get going!
Scott Doherty: Well my name is Scott Doherty, I am one of the co-creators of the show and also the lead dancer in the show. A fun fact about me would be I am the 2009 World Champion of men’s Irish Dance.
That sounds incredible. Can you explain what exactly that is? I think a lot of people think of Irish Dance as the Riverdance-type performance that involves no arm movement. Would they be on the right track?
Scott: It’s basically tap dancing except we don’t use our arms. Every Irish dancer competes for that title and it’s what you dream of growing up all your life. A few of us who are lucky enough, after we’re done competing, we do shows. Shows are much more fun because they’re not as grueling.
You’ve been Irish dancing since you were how old?
Scott: Since I was six years old. I’m 31 now. I’ve been doing this for basically a quarter of a century, and saying that out load, I realize that sounds insane.
Maybe, but almost a decade ago, it paid off because you became the world’s men’s champion. When did the show, Rockin’ Road to Dublin come into the picture? Did you win the championship and say, “let’s do a show now?”
Scott: I wish it was that straight forward! It was actually more of this pipe dream. I was at Busch Gardens in Virginia and met my now best friend, the other co-creator (Chris Smith.) He was a drummer performing at Busch Gardens. I rented a room at his house and we started just started putting a show together. At the beginning, we just talked about different ideas we had. I always wanted to make an Irish Dance show that was really cool. He had toured with different Celtic Rock Bands and stuff like that and he had different ideas he wanted to use and put into a show as well. We realized we had a lot of similar ideas. Then after about a year of talking about it, it kind of morphed into this Irish Dance/Irish Rock-n-Roll show. We knew we could bring in all these different dancers and musicians; we had this plan all laid out. And one day we just looked at each other and said, “Oh my God. We have to do this, don’t we?”
So we called a theatre that day. And we booked a theatre for a weekend, a year from then, without having any idea of how we were going to pull it off. So we gave ourselves a deadline. That was in 2014. And we debuted the show eight months later. And it’s been rolling ever since. The snowball has been accumulating rather quickly to say the least. But I think that’s a good thing. But we debuted the show in 2014, for just one weekend. Then we took about a year to revamp it and make it bigger. We took it out on tour in 2015. And then a year and a half later we brought in a new Broadway director, and we launched our first National Tour, stopping in 72 cities. And then after our first national tour we spent another year making it even bigger and even better and here we are on another national tour!
Forgive my ignorance here, but you don’t sound particularly Irish. Is it a subtle or silent dialect that I’m not familiar with or maybe you’re very good at an American-sounding accent?
Scott: No, I’m actually from Boston. But my family’s heritage is 100% Irish.
Got it! So you dug into the family history and heritage and said, “I want to be an Irish dancer?”
Scott: Oh, I wish! My parents made me do it. I had no choice in the matter. But luckily I fell in love with it. So it all worked out.
If you could give us a quick and vivid description of what one might expect when they’re coming to see Rockin’ Road to Dublin?
Scott: Yeah, absolutely. Now, I could explain it all day, but what I’ve found is that people who come see the show always walk away saying, “I didn’t expect that.” Who thinks to put Irish Dance and Rock-n-Roll together? It’s not really a normal combination. Surprisingly, they work unbelievably easy together. We started working on this show and we at first thought it wouldn’t really work. But the more we delved into it the more we discovered how many similarities they have and that Irish Dance and Rock-n-Roll work super well together.
The show is basically has every element of an Irish Dance show you might expect. If you’re familiar with that sort of thing, all of the songs you might recognize, the sounds of the fiddle and gyps and reels, all of that is there. But imagine all of that with rock. I don’t want to say Celtic Rock, we’ve actually steered away from that because that’s its own thing. It’s more of an 80’s rock-n-roll vibe. Think Aerosmith, AC/DC, those sounds from the 80’s rock world, with the not-moving-your-arms dancing. We met in the middle. It’s definitely an interesting mix. There’s even a song in the second half of the show that’s a medley of 80’s rock songs that we dance to, and that’s a crowd-pleaser every night. It’s a medley of pretty amazing songs and all we really have to do is be on stage.
This show is hard to explain because there’s really nothing out there like it. When it comes to Irish shows, a lot of people look at it with the opinion of, “oh, I’ve already seen an Irish show” so I don’t need to see this one. I think a lot of people will compare us to shows like Riverdance. Now I was very fortunate, one of the lucky ones who got to tour with Riverdance, and obviously it, and shows like it, are amazing shows. But in all my years of touring with those shows the one thing that I learned from talking to fans all over the world is that they wanted something more. So we wanted to give it to them. We want to give them this new, updated version. We’re not trying to change Irish Dancing or the music of Irish Dancing, we’re just trying to update it to fit in with our edgier, modern world.
What is your favorite moment or favorite part of the show, since you mentioned you were the lead dancer, that you get to perform in the show every night?
Scott: I have two. One would be that medley of the 80’s rock songs I mentioned. That’s probably the most fun I’ve ever had on stage. And there’s another number that we have, it’s a battle between Irish Dancers and Snare Drummers. It’s kind of like a twist on the classic tap-battle you would find in any of the traditional Irish dance shows, but we’re upping the game with snare drums. It’s so funny because long before this show became a thing, I’d always had this idea that there should be a dance-off between Irish Dancers and Snare Drummers, and lo and behold, I end up becoming best friends with a drummer.
Your co-creator/best friend— Chris Smith— does he also perform in the show?
Scott: Yes. He’s one of the drummers in the show. We get to perform together every night with a cast and crew of 32 people that we mostly hand-picked. We called in all the best dancers in the world, most of which happen to be my best friends. It’s like a dream-team both on and off stage.
What would you say has been the biggest challenge you have faced in creating this updated, modernized hybrid of classic 80’s rock meets Irish dance?
Scott: The biggest challenge has been getting the word out there for a show that people don’t know yet. It’s one of those things that’s hard to explain, this show. Because you can’t really understand what that’s going to look like, sound like, and feel like— this combination of Irish Dance and Rock-n-Roll— until you see it, until you experience it. A lot of the core Irish fans kind of get scared off when we say “rock.” And we’re very careful to explain that it’s not punk rock, it’s not hard rock, it’s not heavy. It’s just a nice balance of 80’s pop-style rock-n-roll. It’s one of those things that once people see it, they get it. They say, “oh I see how you’re not going too far down the path either way.” But until you see it, it’s hard to explain. All we can say is “trust us, please, just trust us!”
I can completely understand that, because how do you convince people to take a chance on something that’s never been put together like this before, but so obviously needs to be put together in this way?
Scott: It is exactly that. We said many times over, “how has nobody done this before?” We actually had to research it because once we thought about the idea, we knew somebody had to have already done it. But surprisingly, no. No one had ever done this before. So it’s really exciting to be the first show that is marrying Irish-anything and Rock-n-Roll. We’re the pioneers of Irish Rock-n-Roll dance. It’s not Celtic Rock, it’s its own new genre!
What would you say being a part of this creative process has taught you about yourself either as a dancer, a creator, a human being?
Scott: Oh, as all of the above— I’ve learned so much. It’s been a roller coaster for sure. On stage as a dancer and a choreographer it’s definitely taught me that my style isn’t always for everyone. I’ll make up choreography that I think is great, then I bring in literally the best dancers in the world and they point out, “this is awkward” or “this doesn’t work.” Luckily myself and Chris have always had the attitude of “we’re not the only two people who are good at this.” So why not ask for help? If I have a room full of world champions and national champions who have toured all over, why wouldn’t I want their help? It’s such a simple concept. We’re super lucky to have such an amazing team both on stage and behind the scenes. I’ve always known this, but I’ve re-learned to be more conscious about humbling myself and listening to others. There are so many great ideas out there, why not try listening to everybody so that you can make a great thing even better?
Is there anything you want to say about the experience of turning this dream into reality?
Scott: I will say that the experience of making a show fresh from the start— that was an experience. I mean the show part itself, with all of our creative minds working together, the show itself came together incredibly well. But it was the business side that was a real roller coaster. We literally had no idea what we were doing. If we looked back now at how hard it was going to be, we probably never would have done it. We’re thankful that we were too young and stupid to realize it at the time. There’s no regrets at all. Every day I have a different moment in the show where I step back and realize, “Oh my God, we did it.”
Why should people come out and see Rockin’ Road to Dublin?
Scott: Who doesn’t like rock-n-roll? And mostly? Who doesn’t like Irish things? It’s one of those shows that really does have something for everyone, whether it’s the little kid, the teenager, someone around our age, older people, even the grandparents. It literally has something for everyone. Every night after the show, people come running up to us saying, “Oh my God, that was awesome!” Usually when you have an Irish dance show, you don’t walk away saying “awesome!” you think it was cool or cute or different. But not awesome. This show is just a beefed-up AWESOME production. If you think you’ve seen everything before when it comes to Irish shows, I guarantee we’ll prove you wrong.
Rockin’ Road to Dublin plays a one-night engagement at The Hippodrome Theatre Baltimore on Sunday April 29, 2018 at the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center— 12 N. Eutaw Street in the Bromo Seltzer Arts District of Baltimore, MD. For tickets call the box office at (410) 752-7444 or purchase them purchase tickets online.