Director: Michael Flatley
Choreographer: Michael Flatley
Composer: Gerard Fahy
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
20 years ago Michael Flatley burst onto the world stage as lead dancer for the interval act of the Eurovision Song Contest. That seven minute excerpt spawned an international fascination with Irish Dance creating mega hits Riverdance and then Flatley’s own Lord of the Dance franchise.
That format now arrives at the London Palladium as a première ahead of an extensive world tour. It’s a trainthat shows no sign of slowing down, even if this is billed as Flatley’s final West End performances.
In many ways Lord of the Dance Dangerous Games could be subtitled Lord of The Dance: The Next Generation, with Flatley himself only bookending the show, first in a video appearance with his son and then, to huge fan applause, in a high-octane finale. The rest of the show is dedicated to a highly drilled troupe of young dancers.
What is clear from the outset if that Dangerous Games is going to be a visual treat. In an age where theatre has to compete with cinematic blockbusters for spectacle, this production embraces the filmic concept. Projection and video backdrop pay suitable homage to some of the major blockbusters – Avatar, Thor, Terminator and even James Bond all get a nod. It creates a lavish backdrop and one that helps set the scene for what is, perhaps surprisingly, a strong narrative.
We follow the classic good versus evil tale, with The Dark Lord (Tom Cunningham) and his army attempting to subvert all that is good in the world. It’s up to the The Lord of the Dance to save the world and get his girl. It may sound like your traditional panto plot but it’s played with conviction and gives a strong framework for the fancy footwork that is the main entertainment driver of the evening.
James Keegan steps into the Lord of the Dance shoes previously occupied by Flatley and claims the rôle as his own. Charismatic and nimble of foot, Keegan’s central performance is electrifying while never overbearing. There’s fine support from Aimee Black as seductress Morrighan and Alice Upcott’s charming childlike spirit. Fiddlers Giada Costenaro Cunningham and Valerie Gleeson provide a musical change of tempo, and while former Girls Aloud member Nadine Coyle as the Goddess Erin provides full throated vocal interludes, Coyle’s segments seem oddly detached from the dramatic whole.
It is, however, the moments when the Palladium stage is filled with the synchronised steps of the massed company that the show truly comes alive. The trademark Lord of The Dance sequence is a guaranteed crowd pleaser but it’s performed here as fresh as ever and with total commitment from the talented cast.
Over its two decade history this is a show that has built a devoted fan-base and the chance to see Flatley, in what is advertised as his last West End performance, is a major draw to the devoted. Dangerous Games gives them quite a wait as the original Lord of the Dance only makes an appearance in the final five minutes. He may not be as fleet of foot as in his heyday but Flatley still knows who to work a crowd and the extended encore gives the fan-base plenty to cheer. For the less devoted though this shift of focus in the final minutes somewhat unbalances the piece. Flatley’s choreographic skills in the previous two hours are fine testament to his skill, taking centre stage for the final minutes detracts from his assembled company, albeit in a crowd pleasing moment for the fans.
The London Palladium is traditional home of variety and Lord of the Dance Dangerous Games takes the variety format and gives it a modern twist for the 21st century. A show that’s likely to send audiences tapping along Oxford Street.
Runs until October 25th ahead of world tour| Photo: Brian Doherty