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World music; Riviera Theatre shows have an international flair

Talk about a joyful noise!

The Soweto Gospel Choir has sung with just about everyone: U2's Bono, the Eurythmics, Peter Gabriel, Amy Winehouse, Jimmy Cliff, Josh Groban, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, Queen Latifah, Eddie Grant and Wyclef Jean. The choir sang for President Bill Clinton and for South African hero Nelson Mandela.

Only one thing was missing -- Buffalo.

Sunday, the choir is finally closing that gap in its resume. The group is rolling in to the Riviera Theatre (67 Webster St., North Tonawanda), for a rare show at 4 p.m.

"I actually, I kind of tripped over them," laughs Frank Cannata, the Riviera's executive director. "I was at a party with someone who had been in South Africa. He was talking about the choir, and said, if you ever have the opportunity to book them, you should.

"I put them in my tickler file, and went to their website, and found out they would be in Toronto. So I said, my gosh, they're going to be here!"

Things worked out perfectly, Cannata exults. "A February Sunday, and what a great way to culminate Black History Month! Even if you're not into gospel music, just the staging, the presence and the costumes are something to see."

The Soweto Gospel Choir helps touch off a wave of international acts at the Riv.

Saturday will see two shows by the Golden Dragon Acrobats, who boast of being "the premiere Chinese acrobatic touring company in the United States." The troupe promises award-winning acrobatics, traditional dance, spectacular costumes and music both modern and ancient.

"Tickets for kids are only $10," Cannata points out. "Where can you get kids live entertainment for $10? It really is breathtaking. You've never seen anything like it before."

And on Tuesday, the Riviera welcomes Gaelic Storm. This is the high-power Irish group famous for its cameo in "Titanic" -- the band played the group that entertained in steerage.

"So do you want to go to a real party?" That is what Leonardo DiCaprio asks Kate Winslet in the film, inviting her down to the dance. As he whirls her around the floor, Gaelic Storm delivers raucous music -- frantic pipes and fiddles over thundering drums.

Gaelic Storm's firestorm will be followed by other shows in honor of St. Patrick's Day. At 4 p.m. March 4, the theater welcomes the Irish Rovers.

Cannata laughs that although he is Sicilian, he has a fondness for Irish music.

"I think the only Irish record I ever had was the 'Unicorn' record," he says, alluding to the Irish Rovers hit. "I burned the darned thing out, I played it so often. Fast forward 40 years later, here I am as an adult, bringing them to the Riviera in time for St. Patrick's Day."

Irish music continues at the Riv at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. March 8, when the National Dance Company of Ireland presents "The Rhythm of the Dance," a bevy of dancers, Irish tenors and instrumentalists.

"It's a kind of Celtic variety show," Cannata says.

One question: Throughout all this international ambience, will popcorn be available? Cannata laughs.

"Absolutely," he says. "It always is."

email: mkunz@buffnews.com

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>PREVIEW    

WHAT: Golden Dragon Acrobats    

WHEN: 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday; $10-$20    

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WHAT: Soweto Gospel Choir    

WHEN: 4 p.m. Sunday; $40-$50    

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WHAT: Gaelic Storm    

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday; $25-$30    

WHERE: Riviera Theatre, 67 Webster St., North Tonawanda    

INFO: 692-2413