Gaelic glitz and glamour galore, the 25th anniversary tour of Lord of the Dance landed in Oxford as a spectacular celebration of the legend Michael Flatley’s sensational show.
The excitement at New Theatre in Oxford for the iconic show, that elevated Irish dancing to a global level - making billions of pounds along the way - was through the roof.
The vast sea of heads bobbing in the winding queue to enter the theatre gave a hint at the legacy of the Irish American dancer Flatley who rocket launched to fame in the 90s after his Eurovision appearance and then with the show Riverdance.
Most in the crowd were a similar age or older than the star himself, ready for the promised revival of the show that premiered in Dublin in 1996.
It did not disappoint, as was clear from the double standing ovation received at the end.
Incorporating ‘cutting edge’ staging technology, audiences were greeted with a quick exploration of Lord of the Dance’s legacy on a screen split into two levels at the back of the stage.
Then, enter the dancers, and the audience was launched into a dazzling display of insane talent and hypnotic footwork, as the mesmerising story follows the Lord of the Dance and his fight against evil to save ‘Planet Ireland’ combining Irish folklore with biblical references.
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This screen was masterfully employed throughout the performance, at times creating a sense of serenity as leading lady Saoirse – played captivatingly by Lauren Clark in last night’s performance – falls in love with the Lord of the Dance, and dramatically blazing in flames as the evil dark lord Don Dorcha tries to conquer Planet Ireland.
The costumes were a spectacle themselves too, from the blindingly glittery belt worn by the Lord of the Dance, played by Irish dancer Matt Smith, viciously fought for by the dark lord, played by Alasdair Spencer, to the array of sequin bedecked get-ups worn by the entire 40-strong dance crew.
It is impossible to know how the Dark Lord and his crew managed their endlessly energetic performances in their leather trousers.
It has to be said, however, the biggest cheers came when parts of costumes were removed with the audience raising the roof every time the men whipped off their shirts.
Some stand out performances includes award-winning musician Aisling Sage, from West Cork, who captivated with her fiddle playing alongside Italian musician Giada Costenaro Cunningham, both mastering incredibly difficult sequences whilst stomping around the stage in stilettos with dazzling smiles.
Britain’s Got Talent Finalist from the Glanaethwy choir, Celyn Cartwright, provided well needed rest stops from the exhilarating dances with her siren-like voice playing Erin the Goddess, and Irish dance prodigy Cassidy Ludwig delighted as the little spirit clad in a blindingly gold jumpsuit and playing the Lord of the Dance hymn motif on her tin whistle.
Frances Dunne, a world-class Irish dancer who has played the lead previously alongside Michael Flatley himself, regularly stole the show as temptress Morrighan, dominating the stage, the lead Lord of the Dance Matt Smith carrying the performance with his mesmerising skill.
All the cast members and dance troupe performed exceptionally, and if there were any mistakes there was no way of knowing as the show flowed so seamlessly from start to finish that audience members struggled to leave the theatre.
Boasting more than 150,000 taps per performance, the leaps and leg work would have Isaac Newton turning in his grave as they seem to defy the laws of physics, choreographed by Flatley himself, who takes to the stage in virtual form at the end of the performance.
Three projections of Flatley appear on the screen, so well-integrated with the set that a member of the audience remarked it must be him and thought she was seeing triple, each projection interacting to create a unique performance of its own.
In a particularly emotional moment for the fans in the crowd who have followed Flatley all the way, for the finale the dancers performed at the same time as the screen showed one of the first performances of Lord of the Dance, a beautiful meeting of past and present.
The Lord of the Dance will be showing at the New Theatre in Oxford until June 11 when it dances away to continue its 2022 tour.
This story was written by Shosha Adie.
She joined the team in 2022 as a digital reporter.
To get in touch with her email: Shosha.Adie@newsquest.co.uk
Follow her on Twitter: @ShoshaAdie
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