Irish dance phenomenon Michael Flatley can add yet another standing ovation to his tally, after his creation, Lord of the Dance, astounded and mesmerised, yet puzzled, the Hull New Theatre audience, on Tuesday evening.
I say “puzzled” because I, for one, have no idea how human feet can move that fast. And to the same beat, at the same time.
Billed as “25 years of standing ovations”, it was in 1996 that Lord of the Dance tap-danced its way onto a Dublin stage and has now been seen by more than 60 million people.
The Hull show opened with a huge video screen as a backdrop, showing Flatley’s performances throughout his career and, though not dancing live on the night, one later screening was so amazing, it could have been him on the Hull New Theatre stage.
The video screen played a huge part in proceedings – showing a jungle waterfall, lanterns floating in a dark sky, fireworks, ducks swimming on a tranquil pond, lightning, planet Earth, the fires of Hell to name just a few of the dramatic scenarios.
Adding to the drama all night long was a loud drumbeat which reverberated throughout the theatre. Aided and abetted by two very talented violinists – Giada Costenaro Cunningham and Aisling Sage – the mix was mesmeric.
And so, to the dancing and the dancers. Wow and wow again! I am almost lost for words at what I witnessed.
But even someone as popular and revered as Flatley knows that, to keep an audience’s interest, there has to be a story behind the quick-as-a-flash dance routines.
Lord of the Dance recounts that age-old tale of good vs evil, witnessed through the dreams of Little Spirit (the golden vision of Cassidy Ludwig).
In her dream, the Lord of the Dance (the super-human Matt Smith) embodies goodness, but has to fight against the evil that is The Dark Lord (the equally super-human Zoltan Papp), and his menacing warriors.
Their fight scenes were one of my favourite parts of the show – leather-clad baddies on one side, shirtless beefcake on the other. I rest my case.
And the thundering sound of their tap shoes enhanced the threat. But who will be victorious?
It wasn’t all fighting, though. Graceful dancers, not wearing tap shoes, showed us a softer side to proceedings, among them the Lord of the Dance’s love interest, Saoirse (the super-talented Niamh Shevlin).
Every now and then, as the story hotted up and the tap-dancing sped up (especially to the show’s title tune Lord of the Dance), songstress Celyn Cartwright, as Erin the Goddess, brought a calmness to proceedings with her beautiful singing voice – her rendition of Carrickfergus being memorable.
Her performances gave us, as well as the dancers, the chance to catch our breath.
For two hours, including a short interval, this energetic group brought the audience to its feet on more than one occasion.
The glossy programme tells us that “performers can change without notice”, so to avoid errors, I haven’t mentioned who played certain characters. But everyone on stage that night showed an enthusiasm and talent beyond compare.
From “curtain up” the whole slick production screamed perfection; so much so, it was pointless trying to find fault where there wouldn’t be any.
Running until Thursday, May 12th, 2022; 8pm nightly. Tickets from £35. Call (01482) 300306 or visit www.hulltheatres.co.uk
Reviewer: Jackie Foottit
Reviewed: 10 May 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★