REVIEW: Lord Of The Dance: Dangerous Games
Girls Aloud VS Cyborgs on stage
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It's a classic story of good versus evil: chiselled, occasionally shirtless Irish dancing hero faces off against maniacal, Irish dancing cyborg. So goes the story of Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games, in which Michael Flatley, the Cher of Irish Dancing, marks his final West End performance.
It is never quite clear what the ‘Dangerous Games’ of the title are. Dancing too close to a volcano, as in the show's finale perhaps, or tearing off one's clothes mid-jig.
But none of this matters. This is a celebration of dancing and music in the vein of Flatley's previous Lord of the Dance, Feet of Flames and Eurovision-born Riverdance, and astoundingly so. It’s 20 years since that fateful May night on a Dublin stage (the Contest's 1994 winners Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan haven't quite soared to such heights) and Flatley’s used that time well. He knows exactly what his audience really wants: this show is a triumph. The dancers are magnificent; both ladies and gents leap and twirl across the stage in tireless, flexible feats of grace and strength. As ever with these shows, the real highlights occur when all the dancers come together, either in intricate, interlocking formations or at the front of the stage in a rigid line. The atmosphere crackles as they move in unison and the audience, whipped into a frenzy by the hypnotic stomping of heels, loves it.
If you are keen to follow the plot but find the steps aren't quite spelling it out then fear not: Nadine Coyle is on hand to bring you up to date through song. She appears three times, gorgeous in shimmering gowns and comfortable as ever on the stage. The songs aren't the best, but she makes the most of them, bringing fine voice and genuine star quality to proceedings.
Former girl-banders aren't the only distractions from the dancers on hand. A pair of energetic fiddlers, familiar to Lord of the Dance fans, bounce through a couple of numbers, and the show's protagonist, the Little Spirit, shows off some elegant acrobatics.
Some heavy handed attempts at sexing the show up - the short skirts (girls) and absent tops (boys) are as far as they needed to go - and some truly naff graphics on the backing screen are the only questionable, slightly cringeworthy moments of the evening, but the dancing is captivating enough to dismiss these. Special mention should also go to the costumes. It's good to see something step up and keep the sequin industry occupied while RuPaul's Drag Race is off the air.
The charismatic, talented leads - aforementioned chiselled hero; cyborg leader; willowy heroine and saucy temptress - lead us energetically through the show before handing over, for the final dance and subsequent encores, to Flatley himself. The crowd is crazy for him and to see him work his magic, feet tapping out rhythms at impossible pace, does feel truly special.
Part of the joy, as with any dance performance, is watching performers do something unattainable. In Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games, that skill is used to conjure an atmosphere truly befitting of the Palladium. It's a bit like watching a non-stop Britain's Got Talent final without the wisdom of Amanda Holden: your mum will love it; your kids will love it; but most importantly, despite your cynicism, you will love it.
Until 25 October, London Palladium. Ticket details here.
4 / 5
WORDS: Steven Cooper
PHOTO: Tristram Kenton
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