Since its debut at The Point Theatre in Dublin on 2nd July 1996, Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance has mesmerised audiences the world over, from London to Las Vegas public demand for the show renowned for its spectacular showstopping routines has never waned. Now almost 21 years since its official debut, Flatley brings his rejuvenated show Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games to Manchester’s Palace Theatre with local talent James Keegan taking on the lead role of The Lord handpicked no less by the main man himself.
Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games is built around a classic good versus evil story, after an introductory projection featuring Flatley and his young son, Michael St. James, we are introduced to our talented cast via the dream of Little Spirit, (Jess Judd). Little Spirit sees the Lord of the Dance as everything good in the world, this purity and honesty is however threatened by the Dark Lord (Zoltan Papp) and his evil army of Dark Disciples, add to this the dark temptation that comes in the form of Morrighan the Seductress (Andrea Kren) who is determined to come between The Lord and his true love, the pure and perfect Saoirse (Caroline Gray).
The story is a simple one, sometimes a little unclear but let’s be honest we haven’t come here expecting a deep and thought provoking narrative it is without doubt the dancing the draws the crowds year after year and it soon becomes very clear as to why. We are eased in with some exceptional acrobatics from Little Spirit who I’d happily have watched more of, as she introduces us not only to the story but also the running musical theme which we hear throughout the show, Lord of the Dance of course! As we meet the rest of the cast via various routines it is the full traditional ensemble pieces that really grip the audience, the energy and talent on display is mind-blowing, you can’t help but smile whilst watching, it’s an absolute thrill to hear the thundering drum of these lightening quick feet.
The production is at its most powerful during the battle scenes, Zoltan Papp makes for a deliciously menacing Dark Lord, whipping the audience into a frenzy with his fabulous footwork. The sequence where he along with his Dark Disciples corner Little Spirit (Jess Judd) is performed beautifully, strong and precise with great characterisation, special mention also goes to the battle sequence between The Lord of the Dance (James Keegan), The Dark Lord (Zoltan Papp) and their respective armies, beautifully choreographed and directed by Flatley this scene really packs a punch.
Paul Normandale’s staging of this production is almost as impressive as the talent on stage, huge flat screens the full width of the Palace’s imposing stage deliver colourful and bold projections, interjected with thrilling and sometimes unexpected pyrotechnics, complimented by stunning lightening design also by Normandale. Christopher Woods’ costume design is impressive, there are all manner of styles on show, with some really beautifully designed pieces, juxtaposed to the traditional is a section where the females are in not much more than bras and knickers while the men also whip their tops off, while this got a few whoops from the audience it seemed a little unnecessary and distracted from the beauty of the performances on stage.
Special mention must go to musicians Giada Costenaro Cunningham and Nicole Lonergan, their fiddle playing is exceptional, a real highlight sandwiched between the exhilarating dance routines. As well as musical elements the audience are treated to vocals from Erin the Goddess (Sophie Evans) the choice of songs for me fell a little flat, something more upbeat and memorable would have sat better within the production and left more of an impact.
Manchester lad James Keegan really gives his all in the role of The Lord, following in the footsteps of Flatley is no mean feat but Keegan soon has the audience in the palm of his hand as he dances his way across the stage with precision, style and bags of charaisma.
There is no doubt that Flatley has the magic formula when it comes to entertaining his fans, Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games is an absolute feast of dance and colour, with jawdropping choreography that will no doubt continue to delight and thrill dance fans for years to come. It’s an impressively entertaining show, bringing joy to young and old alike, hugely deserving of praise and the standing ovation Manchester was only too happy to bestow.
On at the Palace Theatre until Saturday 15th April, tickets available here http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/lord-of-the-dance/palace-theatre-manchester/