'We were the poster children for the Celtic Tiger' How Riverdance propelled Michael to success

Anne Marie O'CONNOR

FOR Wexford singer, Michael Londra, Riverdance was a door opener.

His involvement in the phenomenon, when it was still at its global height, catapulted him onto the main stages of Broadway and the Riverdance legacy continues to pave a smoothe path for him in his solo career.

Recalling those times this week, Michael says there were many amazing memories for him, but the greatest being his first time playing Radio City Music Hall in NYC.

'I remember walking on the stage at the time thinking it was surreal that I would be able to sing to 6,000 people on the greatest stage in the world. I remember wishing there were people from Wexford there,' he said.

Being part of Riverdance at the time meant being part of the regeneration of Irish culture.

'We were the poster children for the Celtic Tiger. It changed how Irish artists thought of themselves and gave us new opportunities around the world,' smiled Michael , who is now carving out a sucessful and multi-faceted solo career for himself in the US.

The turning point for Michael came when headliner, Brian Kennedy got sick and with an hours notice and Michael had to go on.

'It was truly one of those great Broadway moments. I wasnt even an understudy at the time so they had to make an announcement that I would go on. You could hear the audience gasp. Theresa and Johnny Kinsella were in the audience that night. That night changed my life forever.'

Michael went on to take over from Brian that year, and he ended up singinging in several Broadway concerts with some of the greatest Broadway stars of the time. 'It was something I never thought would happen in a million years,' he smiled.

He admits that sometimes being on the Riverdance rollercoaster was a little overwhelming.

'It was hard not to get sucked in by the sheer size of the machine so it was difficult to be an individual but I think I harnessed that and worked on being a solo artist once I ended my time in 2001,' he said.

Nearly 10 years since his time on the show, Michael is still thrilled that he got to sing Bill Whelan's 'beautiful songs'.

'He (Bill Whelan) will never realise how that music changed my life,' he said.

Looking back, Michael thinks its funny now to see how Riverdaance continues to give work to 'young kids starting out on their career'.

'It spawned so many careers, be it some of the girls in the hugely successful Celtic Woman, some of the lads in High Kings or myself as a solo artist in the States. It opened big doors for me and to this day, I can fill large theaters in the US purely because of my Riverdance on Broadway credit.'

'I have a young five-piece band and 12 dancers with me now on my tours so I feel I can pass on the torch. Whether I sing in China, Korea, France or Portugal, everyone asks me about Riverdance and I am happy and proud to tell them about it.'

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