Lord of the Dance

The unthinkable has been achieved, apparently.
New Theatre, Oxford. Wed 30th November - Sun 4th December 2005.

October 28, 2009
New Theatre, 28 October 2009
Lord of the Dance was like an Irish variety show, complete with soulful singers, hot fiddlers, and of course lots and lots of mincy-foot Irish dancing. It is without a doubt a show that will divide opinion, but if you like it you will love it, as the roses, placards and cat calls from the adoring audience clearly showed.

The dancing was, of course, excellent. A full stage of men and women going through complicated routines with their feet all moving at 100 miles per hour, and in time, is something to behold. Especially impressive were the times when a fast and musical rhythm was beat out by the dancers while still looking graceful in exactly the way that tap dancing doesn’t. However, it must be said that the dancing did not at all times gel with the music, and that my companion and I both questioned whether all the taps and clicks, which were meant to look like they were coming from the dancers, really were.

The next big draw was the music which again, of course, was excellent. Flitting between the delicate and soulful solo singer to what could only be described as stomping grandiose Irish folk, I enjoyed every bit of it. However, to increase the tension the music was gradually pumped louder and louder until the volume got really quite fierce.

Which leads me onto my biggest problem with the show, apart from the shockingly self-loving lead role, which I can’t even bring myself to talk about; it really struggled to fill the hour and a half, and had to resort to quite unsubtle means to do so. In order to create a sense of crescendo the music was just made louder and faster, to create excitement explosions and powerful strobes were used time and again, and for some inexplicable reason they decided that two of the routines should only be done in leggings and sports bras.

Not subtle. But then, you don’t come for the subtlety, do you? You come for stomping Irish dancing, shameless self congratulation and heaps and heaps of fun. And that is what you get. Super.

October 23, 2006
New Theatre, Mon 23 October, 2006
What a great show to have booked for half term! The New Theatre must be overjoyed at the thought of full houses all week, and so they should be. This is a fantastic assembly of dance, music and song, supported by sensible design and wonderfully effective lighting.

In its tenth year, Michael Flatley’s story told through Irish dance is a visual feast of movement, energy, skill and colour. A simple good against evil tale is spun through a variety of dances that represent nature, joy, combat and celebration. Characters as diverse as the Lord of the Dance (striving to win against the forces of darkness), his enemy Don Dorcha, Saoirse (the Irish Colleen) and the Little Spirit weave their magic amongst a fantastically energetic dance chorus of sixteen.

The energy of the entire company was faultless – singer and violinists included – and the audience on this first night were rightly moved to a standing ovation at the end of this offering. For me, the real heart and strength of the show was the ensemble dancing; most especially when the women swapped their ballet shoes for taps. The driving rhythms of Irish Dance are irresistible when performed with such strength, speed and skill.

The story itself is, frankly, irrelevant. What the audience came for, and received in buckets, was consummate skill and athleticism with never a beat missed. From start to finish this show delights with precision choreography and relentless energy. If I have a tiny criticism of the performance it would be that the principals need to spend less time trying to whip an already spellbound audience into a frenzy, and let their unquestionable dance skills perform this function.

Outside of the performance I do have criticisms. The New Theatre needs a refit. Spending an hour and a half jammed into a seat with no leg room and a superfluous pair of opera glasses stuck into my knee did not enhance this performance. The management should take out some seats and give the punters a decent amount of leg room; this in seats that, from Wednesday to Saturday, will cost upwards of £30. In a review I would normally include a list of principals and contributors, but I have not here because I refuse to pay £7 for a programme – the merchandising was grotesquely overpriced (£6 for a key ring!) and detracts from a fantastic show with its money grabbing.

That said, I thoroughly recommend the show for its entertainment value and its appeal to the widest audience imaginable.
Sadly, I agree with 'Irish Joke', below. This was a performance and certainly not a show. A performance I'd rather forget but can't, for the fact that I wasted money before Christmas! If you like Irish Dancing then I can ABSOLUTELY assure you that 'Riverdance' knocks spots of 'Lord of the Dance'. 'River dance' was an adrenalin rush from start to finish and worth every penny unlike 'Lord of the Dance'. As for the Golden Nymph, get in the queue!
All I can say is that I must have been watching a different show to Andy. I thought the production was appalling, very 'HIGH SCHOOL'. Absolutely no class at all, cheap! What does the girl in red think she's doing trying to lap dance on the pole.......pathetic!! There were not enough people to fill the stage. The golden nymph was the most irritating 'THING' I have seen on stage. Please, someone shoot her! 45mins for the first half and then not much more for the second is very bad value. The tickets cost £38 and as the stage was high I didn't see a foot all night. A waste of money!
Saturday night in Oxford found us yet again in the New Theatre to see another breathtaking spectacular known as Lord of the Dance. With every performance we have seen there is always something that seems to take each one a notch higher on the ladder to supreme excellence. Tonight's performance was to be no exception.

Assembled on stage were the combined talents of the finest Irish dancers in the world. The man dancing lead tonight was none other than Celtic Tiger veteran Damian Doherty. Just recently the leadsmen have taken to coming on stage marked in "Woad", sort of adds to the authenticity. His opposite No. this show was Ciaran Devlin, who cetainly seems to revel in the role of Lord of Darkness.

We were realy in for a treat tonight, the part of Saorise was to be taken by one of the longest standing members of troupe 2: Tracy Smith. This was the first time we saw Tracy dance this part, and gotta tell ya, she is incredible - looks, style, talent and finesse, this young lady has it all. Can it get any better? You betcha!

Dancing the part, or rather smouldering the part of Morrighan (Goddess of War and Death) was none other than Troupe 1+ 2 and Celtic Tiger member, the Gorgeous Cherie Butler. We have seen Cherie dance varying roles, in LOTD and CT and without any doubt she is awesome, but tonight she surpassed herself totally. What a sheer delight.

Fiddling tonight were resident player with troupe one, the superb and fiery Orla Harrington, accompanied by a young lady on loan from troupe 2, Miss Sarah Carter. Now do those two ladies ROCK or what. If you're not moving when these two have finished on stage then get yourself checked out.

Nimah Kelly was again tugging the heart strings in the guise of Erin, and the mannequin was none other than Selina Breed.

Brilliant performance all round. Sadly the Celtic Tiger members are off now to rehersals, thanks for everything over the past couple of weeks we will see you soon.
Twenty-two pairs of legs tap the stage furiously, pounding out a thunderous, frantic and exciting rhythm. As the pace quickens, and the music goes up a key, there is an unavoidable rise in spirits, in the dancers, myself, and, quite noticeably, the rest of the audience.

I had come to the New Theatre to see the Lord of the Dance with some apprehension – no matter how modern, or how lively they make it, it’s still Irish dancing. And surely that’s a little twee? And maybe without enough variety to sustain a full evening? How utterly wrong could I be. The en-masse dances would convert the most cynical. I defy anyone to watch all forty-four feet and legs swinging, tapping, swaying and twisting and not feel the hairs on the back of the neck rise.

An evening like this could not be sustained by just the big ensemble dancing, and fortunately even when there are as few as two dancers, there’s a magic and a cleverness in the choreography to keep the crowd thoroughly entertained.

The show moves from dance to dance, or song, or fiddle solos by means of the shakiest of narratives. It’s your run-of-the-mill good dancers against the evil dancers, the evil dancers rob the nymph’s flute, only to be defeated by the Lord of The Dance himself. Just like real life, then. Fortunately, of course, nobody is here to appreciate the writing skills of the producers.

The story does not need to be any more complicated than this, but it is necessary to give the sequence of dances just enough of a thread to feel like one continuous performance. Some dances involve just women, some just men, and some are mix of the two. Each dance has its own costumes, and they all have their own character.

I particularly enjoyed the evil dancers’ routines: twelve men, stomping angrily around the stage like a bunch of futuristic soldiers with rhythm. The noise of the tap shoes on the stage filled the theatre, and the speed of the footwork was astounding. The women’s dances were mostly less noisy affairs, but performed with grace, dexterity, and excellent coordination.

It was when the whole cast came together that we got the full adrenalin hit. I am sure this style of show has received criticism from the high-brow intellectuals who see this as art without purpose or meaning; a vehicle to impress by scale alone. And there are some areas where the show isn’t perfect: the (recorded) music occasionally drowns out the tapping and the live fiddles; the story is daft; and the fireworks are an unnecessary diversion.

But really, as myself and anyone else in the rapturous audience would say, who cares? This is pure spectacle, a show to entertain and amaze. In the run up to Christmas, this is an excellent show to sit back and enjoy, and let these talented dancers do the hard work for a couple of hours.
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