Mention Michael Flately and everyone immediately remembers Riverdance. But over 20 years on from that breathtaking Eurovision Song Contest performance, his career has taken him on a new journey through his breakaway show Lord of the Dance, which he created, produced, directed and of course choreographed and debuted in 1996.
This in itself has evolved into Fleet of Flames and now the latest effort Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games, which is running at Leeds Grand Theatre this week
The show opens with the first ‘appearance’ from Flatley himself (via a large LED screen) alongside his son Michael St James Flatley telling the audience that 20 years ago ‘they said it couldn’t be done’ and of course he has proved ‘them’ wrong. Flatley shares the choreography credit with Dance Director and Associate Choreographer, Marie Duffy Pask. For the most part, the company, small group and solo numbers, are wonderful, with all the trademark moves audiences have come to love, often with a modern twist.
The fast-paced tap routines and softer more lyrical numbers were highly impressive, enhanced by an array of spectacular and colourful costumes.
Flatley’s problem has always been how to fill out a show around the riverdancing. The story, which becomes clearer as the show progresses, is basically a tale of good versus evil. The show includes few songs from Over the Rainbow runner up, Sophie Evans who has a beautiful voice which was sadly lost to huge noise of the band. With two beauty queens playing their violins – Giada Costenaro Cunningham and Nicole Lonergan and two more who fight for the love of the charismatic Lord of the Dance (James Keegan, Feral Keaney and Matt Smith sharing the role)
It acts out a dream by flute playing Little Spirit (Gymnast Jess Judge in an amazing lycra bodysuit which seemed to make her almost fluid like in her movements) in which The Lord of the Dance, representing all that is good battles against The Dark Lord (Tom Cunningham and Zoltan Papp sharing the role) and his army of Dark Disciples, representing all that is bad. He is pulled between his true love Saoirse ( played by Caroline Gray, Nikita Cassidy and Erin Kate Mcilravey) and the sensual seductress Morrighan (played by Andrea Kren and Mide Ni Bhaoill). The Dark Lord attempts to get Little Spirit’s beloved flute in a bid to snap it in two so he can have ultimate power and steal the title of Lord of the Dance.
There is no doubt that Keegan is an amazing dancer, his feet flying and snapping in the complex blur of steps that lie somewhere between flamenco and tap and he has a nice line in stiff legged leaps. But it is the second ‘appearance’ of Flatley towards the end that brings the house down, even if it is only via a trio of holograms of himself doing the dancing
While all the ‘E-words’ mentioned in the press release are true: Dangerous Games is “Extraordinary,” an “Extravaganza,” “Entertaining” and “Explosive”; the spectacle is also burdened with heavy cliché and generic imagery, as we dance to the predictable conclusion, where good prevails over evil and love conquers all.
The production values and execution, as mentioned, are excellent: The audio track of composer Gerard Fahey’s accessible and well-played score is full and crisp (Wigwam Acoustics Limited – Craig Burns). The lighting rig is modern and the design is sharp (Paul Normandale), as are the follow-spot operators. While the vibrant colour saturated AV sequences are impressive in size and scale (JA Digital), some of the content (JA Digital and Fractured Pictures) borders on corny, with butterflies, waterfalls and rainbows alongside flying fish and unicorns, to depict all things bright and beautiful. Of course AV images of fire and brimstone; desolate lands and volcanic explosions take over, whenever the Dark Lord rises.
It is a beautiful show and highly energetic. If you like dancing then you are in for a real treat. In Leeds until Saturday April 1st and on tour around the UK