DanceDramaNorth East & YorkshirePerformance ArtPhysical TheatreReview

Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games – The Grand, Leeds

Creator, Producer and Director: Michael Flatley

Choreography: Michael Flatley

Composer: Gerard Fahy

Reviewer: Ruth Jepson

The original Lord of the Dance blazed onto the stage a shocking 20 years ago, with Michael Flatley’s fast feet setting the world on fire as audiences hungered to experience the jaw-dropping Irish dancing skills of him and his cast. The show has gone through a further two revisions, Feet of Flames in 1998 and Celtic Tiger in 2005, and in 2015 was reborn once more in the form of Dangerous Games.

Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games is a fantastical dreamscape of a Little Sprite (the jealousy-inducingly bendy Jess Judge, a 19-year-old gymnastic British Champion whose flexibility can only be dreamed of by us mere mortals). It tells a timeless story of good vs evil: the titular Lord of the Dance (James Keegan in this performance) must defeat The Dark Lord (Tom Cunningham in this performance) and his army of Dark Disciples, while at the same time fighting off the attractive Morrigan the Seductress (Andrea Kren in this performance), to claim the hand of his one true love Saoirse (Caroline Grey in this performance). Told through a mixture of dance and song the plot is easy to get the gist of, but let’s be honest, it doesn’t really matter what story links together the frankly spellbinding scenes – the audience is far too busy marvelling over the jaw-dropping dancing speed and beautiful choreography to worry about following what is going on. 

The five lead dancers are, without exception, amazing. Keegan earns his Lord of the Dance title and is an excellent replacement for Flatley (although the latter does still have a video projected dance number with himself. This is a little cringe-inducing, and smacks of egotism – the creator needs to step back and let his protégés have the limelight they deserve).  Keegan’s fights with Cunningham’s Dark Lord are electrifying and impossible to look away from. The chorus dancers too, are amazing to watch, absolutely nailing the synchronised choreography, and the two featured fiddlers (Giada Costenaro Cunningham and Nicole Lonergan) make the audience want to dance along as well with their musical talent. The only slight disappointment is Erin the Goddess (Sophie Evans). Not because of a lack of talent, her rendition of the song Dangerous Games will stay with you long after you have left the theatre, but because her three solos feel to be lacking energy, after the frantic scenes they follow. They are necessary to advance the plot (and allow for costume changes) but get, at best, polite applause. The rest of the cast, on the other hand, are always met with whoops and hollers. Accenting her songs with some dancers would make much better use of her skills.

The revamp has changed a lot of aspects from the original staging. The music has more of a rocky edge, and the dances have been sexed up for a more contemporary feel, although some set pieces of the choreography are still present, and the recognisable melodies of the compositions remain the same, so Lord of the Dance purists will still appreciate the show as much as new fans. The costumes too have been given an overhaul, moving the story from a Celtic fairy tale into a dystopian future. Each outfit is gorgeous (apart from the coloured sports bras and yoga pants, which would be better left in the rehearsal room, as should Grey’s plastic looking wig) and the use of electronics within the robot-esque army costumes adds an intriguing new layer to the feel of the show. The projected set is a nice touch too; taking the action from unicorn filled glades to dark hellscapes and beyond, adding to the ethereal feel of the show.

Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games is definitely a highly recommended show, melding the traditional and the contemporary easily, and showcasing a great amount of dance, music and singing talent. You will leave the theatre wishing that all wars could be solved with an Irish dance-off and a fiddle (at the very least, it would have made Brexit and the American elections more entertaining anyway).

Runs until Sunday 2 April 2017 | Image:  Brian Doherty

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Mark Clegg. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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