Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games – New Theatre, Oxford

Choreographer: Michael Flatley

Reviewer:  Bethaney Rimmer

“If you believe in yourself and you are willing to work hard, then nothing is impossible” – a quote from Michael Flatley himself, who has indeed achieved incredible things. The original Lord of the Dance debuted in 1996 and has maintained its enormous popularity for almost twenty-one years, selling out arenas from Tokyo to Texas, Mexico to Moscow. “We didn’t come this far to finish second”, booms Michael’s voice at the beginning of the show – while extremely entertaining and performed by an exceptional cast, this current rendition, unfortunately, does come a close second behind the original.

Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games has a very simple story of good versus evil. After an endearing projection of Flatley with his young son, we are taken into the dream of a Little Spirit (Jess Judge); the Lord of the Dance (James Keegan) represents good, but he is constantly antagonised by the Dark Lord (Tom Cunningham) and his disciples, and tempted by Morrighan the Seductress (Andrea Kren) despite being in love with Saoirse (Nikita Cassidy). The question remains, will the Little Spirit’s dream turn into a nightmare, and will good triumph in the end?

It is an extremely difficult task to take on the role of the Lord, which was originated by Flatley, and to live up to those expectations. Some would say it is impossible. When Flatley was on stage he had a rare commanding presence, he charmed the audience in seconds, and the speed of his footwork was unbelievable. There’s no denying that Keegan is a very impressive dancer – his movements are sharp, crisp, and strong – but it takes until the second half for that stage presence to fully show itself. Even though he is the lead, in group numbers your eyes are not necessarily drawn to him.

The same could be said for Cassidy; while she is a beautiful dancer, light on her feet and graceful, she doesn’t necessarily stand out from the rest of the female cast. Indeed, the all-female group routines do become a bit repetitive: apart from one number which allows them to let their hair down, their dances are all pretty, dainty, and focused on making nice patterns on the stage, and it feels like these girls have more to offer, but the choreography doesn’t give them the chance.

It is the villains that steal the show, led by Cunningham. Their introductory routine is by far the most powerful and exciting of the first half. Another notable moment is when they are taunting the little spirit and trying to steal her magical flute – Judge demonstrates her impressive acrobatic skills and this is an improvement on the same scene from the original production.

The show is most mesmerising when the cast comes all together and dance to the titular tune. You will probably never see such precise, immaculate footwork from any other dance show, and the energy coming from the stage is awe inspiring.

The music in this show, composed by Gerard Fahy, is uplifting and the two fiddle players (Giada Costenaro Cunningham &Nicole Lonergan) bring so much joy to the stage. They should be commended also for all the dancing they do in heels, and not once does their energy waver.

The production is accompanied by bright and colourful graphics and projections, and occasional pyrotechnics. While they do add some excitement to the show, the best projection is perhaps the simplest one that appears at the end of the second half. Without giving too much away, fans of the original Lord will really enjoy this one.

Flatley’s shows are famous for their high production values and in that respect, this show will not let you down. The dancers are all talented and clearly love what they are doing. Dangerous Games just lacks some of the magic of the original Lord of the Dance – perhaps this can only come in the form of Flatley himself, so maybe it’s time now for a whole new show to let these dancers create their own legacy.

Runs until 26 January 2017 | Image: Contributed

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