Lord of the Dance – Royal & Derngate – Northampton

How did what started as a seven minute intermission filler at the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest become the greatest Irish dance show in the world? Michael Flatley had a dream but it was his burning ambition & unique dancing skills that had captured the world’s attention on that cold April evening in Dublin and taken the world by storm?

Riverdance helped Michael Flatley and his niche team of dancers become overnight sensations at a time when Irish dancing was confined very much to the Irish community across the world & very few other people in the early ’90s had any interest in it!

I had previously thought that Lord of the Dance had somehow morphed out of Riverdance but I have since discovered that it was a completely separate show. After his departure from Riverdance, Flatley created Lord of the Dance. The idea had come to him in the middle of the night and with an unfaltering focus and determination assembled a team that would become part of its 25 year history. Lord of the Dance first premiered in Dublin in 1996 and now the Irish dance phenomenon is at the Royal & Derngate all this week until Saturday 9 April.

Lord of the Dance celebrates the best of traditional Irish dancing but with all the excitement of contemporary music and dance, including tap, ballet & jive movements! It is an unforgettable show full of high-energy Irish dancing, original music, storytelling and sensuality but it is essentially a story about good over evil!

The dance sequences were perfectly choreographed and illuminated by a fine choice of costumes, music orchestration and colourful changing set backdrops. The dance sequences between the good guy, the brilliant Lord of the Dance (Mathew Smith) and his evil counterpart The Dark Lord ( Declan Durning) had the Derngate audience booing & cheering in all the right places. They could easily have done some real damage with a slightly misplaced high kick from those tap shoes! The speed and accuracy of the footwork was breathtaking at all times. It is all in the feet!

The good & evil theme continued with good girl Saoirse (Lauren Clarke) battling to win the affections of the Lord of the Dance from the sensual advances of bad girl Morrighan (Cyra Taylor). Who wins? Will the beautiful & seductive Morrighan come between his true love Saoirse? You will have to come along to the Derngate to discover the answer! Both performers were exceptional.

The dark menacing army of warriors dressed from head to foot in dark leather dancing against the cloth capped good guys provided much tension and excitement. There were a number of beautifully balanced dance arrangements which also demonstrated a touch of humour. A `battle of the sexes` with the female & male dancers of the troupe appearing to want to upstage each other, all with a sense of fun & enjoyment was a joy to watch, bringing many smiles to the faces of the audience.

The show provided enormous impact, thanks in part to innovative technology, outstanding lighting, stunning costumes, elaborate choreography and special effects. The new show features over forty outstanding young performers from across the globe. Some of the Derngate audience were on their feet minutes into the show, such was the excitement and anticipation.

It was the occasional songs from Erin the Goddess (Celyn Cartwright) which provided a pause between the energetic pace of the dancers. She had a beautiful voice and stage presence putting into words what the dances so clearly expressed.

The Little Spirit (Cassidy Ludwig) helped string the story together with “The Lord of the Dance” theme tune played to a free rhythm on a penny whistle both haunting & effective. At times she resembled a small bronze idol dressed in her shiny silver costume and headdress. She was ever present throughout the show bringing drama and dance to her fragile dreams. A knockout performance!

The musicianship of the two female fiddle players must also be acknowledged, how did they manage to play those incredible tunes so well whilst dancing in those high heels and still keep smiling?

Although not at the Derngate in person Michael Flatley did appear on stage in a very well arranged triple video merging into one image of the dancer at the finale. Lord of the Dance has an almost timeless, universal appeal which I am sure everyone can appreciate & find some joy in.

“I’m so excited to bring the original Lord of the Dance back to UK Theatres in 2022.  I feel like this is the most vital tour in our 25 year history! The return of the arts is so incredibly important. I hope the tour will help renew spirits and put a smile back on everyone’s faces…”

Michael Flatley

Lord of the Dance has enjoyed 25 years of world-wide standing ovations and this was no exception! The Derngate audience loved every minute of the show. It was a triumphal celebration. I left the auditorium with a smile on my face, as did many others. Lord of the Dance is a joyous occasion. A celebration of good over evil, and the world could do with a lot more of that at the moment!

Lord of the Dance steps forward at Derngate until Saturday 9 April, at 8pm, with matinees at 2.30pm on Wednesday and Saturday. Tickets – priced from £33* – can be booked by calling the Box Office on 01604 624811 or online at http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk.

Websites:       www.lordofthedance.com  www.michaelflatley.com

Facebook:         /MichaelFlatleysLordoftheDance

Twitter:           @LordOfTheDance  @lotdofficial

YouTube:         /michaelflatley