Review of “Lord of the Dance” at the Stranahan TheatreWritten by Chad Meredith | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael Flatley’s “Lord of the Dance” gave Toledo an awe-inspiring production. “Lord of the Dance” tells the tale of a spirit who flies through time to help the Lord of the Dance protect his people from dark forces. This tale is told through spellbinding choreography, emotionally resonant music, and stunning technical aspects. “Lord of the Dance” is also a revolutionary mixture of classic and contemporary theatrical elements. The setting was a combination of a rock concert and a mythical temple.
Two tall metal pillars stood on either side of a tall narrow wall. These pillars had a purple light on them that pointed toward this wall. The pillars seemed to touch the ceiling. The pillars looked like they were pulled directly out of a rock concert. Above, six blue lights completed the blue and purple color saturation of the stage. Between these tall pillars were two small archways. To the left of the two archways was a torch. On the center wall were two V’s, one directly above the other. This wall was crimson, and had a circular painting of a dragon’s head above it. This wall completed the mythical temple aspect of the setting. Light smoke enhanced the fantastical aura of the setting. In an instant, the lights went out and loud thunder began the production.
After purple lights shined on the audience, a multitude of hooded figures sauntered slowly from the archways. They were carrying torches, and appeared to be performing a ritualistic trance. A spotlight then shone on a female fairy (i.e. the spirit protagonist), covered in bright emeralds. This fairy, while kneeling, played the theme melody of the production. At the cue of this melody’s end, church bells rang. Wearing a mischievous smile, the fairy stood up, and sprinkled magical dust on sleeping women. These women were, up to now, invisible. Their entrance was so unexpected to the audience that it looked like they appeared out of thin air.
After these sleeping women were on their feet, they captivated the audience with their choreography. These women then began kicking out their legs and stomping the ground with intricate Irish choreography. As they jumped, kicked, and danced at an increasing speed, more dancers came onto the stage. The dancers kept in perfect rhythm with a fast-playing fiddle. As the fiddle played, the sound of the dancers’ shoes hitting the stage created a pleasing instrument. The dancers’ choreography fixed the audience’s gaze to their every move. To see eighteen dancers simultaneously perform complex choreography while keeping perfect time with a fiddle in the background was a wonder to behold. As quickly as the dancers appeared, they seemed to vanish in an instant. A woman in a hunter green dress and cloak then emerged.
This woman came onto the stage twice and sang a heart-wrenching Celtic song. A harp in the background accentuated the emotional force of the first song. Even though it was difficult to understand some of the words, her voice soothed the audience’s soul. In the second song, “Carrickfergus,” she made the audience share her longing. When she hit the high notes of the song, she did not strain her voice, or go too high. This mezzo soprano volume let the audience focus more on the song’s lyrics, than just her voice. When she sang “where the mountains reach the sea,” she stretched her arm out, as though reaching toward the mountains. Her blocking made the audience feel like they were right next to her. These songs were a traditional, but no less potent aspect of the production. “Lord of the Dance” is anything but a traditional “Irish dancing show.”
In one of the scenes, a row of women came out dancing complex choreography. While they danced, they ripped off their shirts and pants to reveal scantily clad black attire. The only clothes they then wore were a black bra and very short black pants. They never stopped or slowed down. In another move, these women danced and moved one of their legs in a circle in front of them. They moved in perfect synchronicity.
In a couple other scenes, a woman in a dazzling red dress captivated the audience’s attention beyond her clothes. This woman’s choreography held full control over the audience’s gaze. This woman mixed sultry choreography with fantastic Irish dance steps, and made it appear easy. In one of her scenes, a saxophone added to this woman’s seductive aura. Just as choreography, technical effects and music relaxed the audience, they were also used to raise their adrenaline.
When the audience was introduced to the evil characters, the dancers’ on-stage presence was terrifying to behold. These dancers wore blue shirts, black pants and black metal masks around their eyes. To signify himself as the leader of this band of dancers, one of the dancers wore a black shirt, black pants and two red armbands. He danced around this troupe of evil dancers, and danced as he faced the audience. The sound of these dancers’ shoes stomping the stage was loud and made the audience feel uncomfortable. As red and blue lights flashed, a loud drum enhanced the dancers’ furious pounding of the stage. Even though they were only dancing, their perfect choreography and surrounding technical elements made dancing appear deadly. Audience participation also made “Lord of the Dance” enjoyable.
When two women in black played a violin duet, the audience clapped along with no encouragement. These violinists apparently welcomed the clapping, since one of them motioned for the audience to continue clapping while the other played. When the leader of the evil dancers jumped around as his army danced, he raised his arm in a fist to get the audience to cheer for him. He was met with boo’s from the audience. When he put his hand to his ear as though he could not hear them, it stimulated the audience to boo louder. While the evil leader responded with annoyance, it was clear that this booing was the intended response. While this production of “Lord of the Dance” was riveting, it was not without flaws.
Since a program was not available to the general audience (unless they paid for the expensive program), it was difficult to understand how some of the scenes were relevant to the story. Had a program been made available to the general audience, the story would have been easier to follow. Even though the basic story was understandable, many scenes appeared irrelevant. In the second act, a “dance off” between the good and evil dancers was silly, since neither group ever appeared weaker or stronger than the other. One group’s choreography complemented, rather than weakened the other. Regardless of the production’s weaknesses, the choreography and technical aspects blew the audience’s mind.
When the entire cast danced before the audience, their dexterity appeared too flawless to be real. Rather than simply a row of dancers performing complex Irish choreography, the troupe was a vibrant wave of energy and rhythm. The dancers made the audience believe that there was no tempo they couldn’t step to. The cast and crew of “Lord of the Dance” gave the audience a new meaning to the term “Irish dancing.”