Michael Flatley's Lord of the Dance storms back into Manchester with a cast that includes some local talent. This touring production is much smaller than the original arena productions, yet this show still has the power to entrance it's audience.
The Little Spirit opens the show, sprinkling her magic dust to wake the dancers. Kate Pomfrit from Bolton dances and moves beautifully but never quite creates the ethereal feel that the spirit really needs.
James Keegan, who hails from Fallowfield, makes a fine Lord (Flatley's role in the original) showing all the necessary skills and prowess to create the complex dance steps required. He has his own gentle charisma but is not as magnetically watchable as the man himself. His dark enemy Don Dorcha played by Tom Cunningham provides a foil to the Lord, but despite the mask and clothing he never quite comes across as menacing enough.
The two principal female dancers Saoirse (The Irish Cailin), Bernadette Flynn, and Morrighan (The Temptress), Aisling Murphy are both strong - but whoever decided that part of Morrighan's dances should include modern pole dancing and crawling (supposedly seductively) across the floor made a grave mistake. I found these grating against the otherwise graceful movement of the dance.
Hayley Griffiths as Erin the Goddess has a soaring voice which suits the songs she is given to sing. In a change from the original production she now sings "Carrickfergus" as opposed to "She Moves Through The Fair" and the show loses something in the switch. She also did not appear particularly Goddesslike in her evening dresses. The fiddlers in Gaida Costenaro and Aine McGeeney make up for what the goddess lacks by producing some of the finest playing I have heard.
The real stars of the show are the chorus of dancers who become everything from the village girls to fairies, warlords to warriors. En masse they are a force to be reckoned with and the sheer adrenalin that flows from the stage during the large dance numbers draws the enthusiasm from the audience. Without this excellent ensemble, the show would not work.
The set is a minimalist landscape of steel risers and Celtic backdrop but this is perfect to allow the dancers to stand out as they deserve. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of some of the costumes and I spent the majority of the performance dreading the return of the plastic breastplates.
In its transition from arena spectacular to theatre production, Lord of the Dance has lost a little of the sparkle; but it is still a show with magic in its soul and a show that dance fans should see once in their lives.