There’s little doubt that Michael Flatley is the Lord Of The Dance.
OK, it might be a bit much adapting a hymn singing God’s praises to become your own personal mantra, but he’s certainly cornered the sparkling Hollywood side of the Irish dance market.
In case you’ve missed out on the rise of modern Irish dance, Flatley was the man behind the phenomenal Riverdance routine which wowed an international audience as the interval entertainment at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1994.
After establishing the Riverdance stage show, he soon moved on and created Lord Of The Dance, which has been through various incarnations - Celtic Tiger and Feet Of Flames included - playing to worldwide audiences ever since. Last autumn saw the Flatley brand’s triumphant return to the UK, with Lord Of The Dance: Dangerous Games spending two months at the London Palladium.
It’s since moved to the Dominion Theatre, with the man himself returning to the stage for weekend shows from tonight, and has embarked on a UK tour, which comes to Blackpool next month.
Twenty-one years on from recreating Irish dance, Flatley has announced he’s preparing to hang up his dance shoes.
Leaving the legacy in the safe hands, or should that be feet, of a new generation of Lords.
One of those dancers now taking on the title of ‘Lord Of The Dance’ in the national tour is Morgan Comer.
Alongside fellow Lord Cathal Keaney, Morgan will be one of two dancers leading the show when it comes to the Opera House on June 9 to 11.
A relative newcomer to Flatley’s superstar world of Irish dance, Morgan only joined the company three years ago - and within six months had been hand-picked by Flatley to be trained and developed into the top role. He’s a Great British, British National, Ulster and World Championship title-winning dancer, with a competition background which has seen him challenge for titles on numerous occasions at the Winter Gardens and the Norbreck Castle. But he only turned professional in 2012, the year he also graduated as a physiotherapist (handy in this line of work).
“Michael Flatley knows what he is looking for,” said Morgan, who started dancing aged five in Southampton, before moving to Belfast aged 13. “He will find the individual and bring them on.
“I started learning the good guy’s dances after about six months in the show, and did my first performance just over a year after joining - which will be two years ago in August.
“It was amazing to be picked that quickly, a dream come true as it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”
While Morgan’s route into the company was pretty traditional, rising through Irish dancing ranks, lead girl Andrea Kren was a latecomer to the genre back home in Hungary, switching from traditional folk to Irish dance aged 13.
“When Lord Of The Dance came to Hungary, everyone wanted to see it,” she explained. “Then an Irish man came and got married in Hungary and set up a dance school.
“We went to competitions, even the world champs, but it was about the experience. It was great to see what Irish dance could do for you, but our interest was getting into the big show.” In Dangerous Games - told through the dream and nightmare of a Little Spirit - the Lord Of The Dance falls in love with the ‘good girl’ Saoirse, is tempted away from her by bad girl Morrighan and is pitted against the Dark Lord, and his robotic troops, in a classic battle of good over evil, set against Irish folklore.On the other side of the battle lines to Morgan is bad girl Andrea, who has an intriguing accent - mixing her native Hungarian with Irish.
“The acting part is quite a challenge, with having a bit more scope for putting personality into it as the bad girl, it’s not just the dancing,” she said, in the basement green room of Manchester Opera House, where the show’s running this week.
“There’s a long solo in the first half, which is tiring, and then more acting in the second half.
“The role has been changed over the years and in Dangerous Games, and she’s gotten more evil.” For Morgan’s good guy, it’s all about winning over the audience, with a combination of Irish charm and nifty footwork - including an extended unaccompanied piece, before waging war - with fists and feet - against the Dark Lord. “I actually enjoy being the good guy, although there’s a lot of pressure on the role in interacting with the crowd as well as a lot of close work with the lead girls,” he said.
“Especially in Irish dancing, you don’t think of acting being part of it, but the fight scenes really bring that out.
“For 15 years of competition, I did the whole ‘arms by the side’ thing, and then it’s gone.”
“It’s very theatrical,” Andrea added. “With a strong storyline, and it’s more like a musical or a ballet rather than just dance.”
For those who’ve seen Lord Of The Dance on previous tours, Dangerous Games promises a whole new look - according to Andrea and Morgan.
“It’s had a great reaction from two months at the London Palladium,” said Andrea, who shares the role of Morrighan with Lara Milner. “There have been a lot of changes, new costumes, new lights, projections and the music is different, and there’s a bit of a twist in the storyline.If someone has been before, they will see this as a brand new show.”
* Lord Of The Dance: Dangerous Games, Opera House, Blackpool, Tuesday to Thursday, June 9 to 11. Call 0844 856 1111 or visit www.wintergardensblackpool.co.uk to book.