REVIEW: Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games, Manchester Opera House

Andrea Kren plays Morrighan in Lord Of The Dance
Andrea Kren plays Morrighan in Lord Of The Dance
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Lord Of The Dance: Dangerous Games is a classic tale of good versus bad, and that possibly sums it up.

The dancing is good, very good - well, excellent. And what else would you expect from the ‘brand’ of Michael Flatley?

He recreated Irish dance when the Riverdance interval performance wowed the world courtesy of the Eurovision Song Contest 21 years ago.

The Irish-American dancer soon parted ways with that show and set up Lord Of The Dance.

Nineteen years on and it’s back in the UK, with the latest incarnation Dangerous Games wowing the audience at Manchester’s Opera House this week - ahead of its Blackpool stop-off next month.

Although Flatley doesn’t appear, his persona and ego is stamped heavily all over the production, from a video montage displaying his feats of success and mantras to the recorded trio of his likenesses enjoying a dance off against themselves.

Such is the man’s appeal that even his videoed efforts sent the crowd whooping in appreciation. But for me, live action is where it’s at.

And the dancers - led by Cathal Keaney as the Lord (aka good guy), Zoltan Papp as the Dark Lord, good girl Saoirse Nikita Cassidy and bad girl Morrighan Lara Milner - put on a spectacular show. The story is told through the dreams and nightmares of the mega-bendy Little Spirit Jess Judge, as she helps the Lord Of The Dance take on the Dark Lord. The athleticism and finesse of the 28-strong cast is something to behold, they scarcely break sweat throughout and maintain cheery smiles or more demonic grins, depending on the role.

Original music runs throughout, with fiddle features from the ultra-glam Giada Costenaro Cunningham and Eimear Reilly, and vocal athletics by former The Voice contestant Rachael O’Connor.

That said, there was a lot that didn’t appeal; the Barbie doll styling of the female company - which was somewhat lacking among the men, computer game graphics and the over-amplified soundtrack of pounding Irish-inspired music and toe-taps.

The show is certainly high camp, it makes Strictly look as though it scrimps on the sequins.

Testosterone-fuelled fights between the good and bad Lords were highlights, bringing the story-telling to the fore, while showcasing the male company’s strengths.

Sadly the more delicate beauty of the girls’ routines was somewhat spoiled by their styling, which was just too naff for me.

Besides traditional Irish influences in the choreography, there’s also elements of ballet, tap and street styles adding to the tale and broadening the show’s appeal.

When this show really comes into its own, though, is when the full cast comes together, in the classic line-up - hammering the stage, beating out the lazer-sharp (and just as speedy) rhythms in quick fire succession.