Unlike all of the Michael Flatley created shows, or many of the copycat versions that frequently tour the country, Essence of Ireland is not an Irish Dance show and to label it as such does a disservice. It is a story of love, happiness and heartache set to some beautiful Irish music, told in both song and prose and with some amazing Irish based dance routines throughout.
The tale is of Sean Michael Dempsey and Cora McGowen who met, in the 1940s, on holiday in Salthill, County Galway. It was truly love at first sight but, as so often is the case, true love did not run smoothly for them. Work was scarce in Ireland and, in order to fulfil his plan to spend his life with Cora, Sean headed first to England and then America to find employment.
A powerful and repetitive drum beat heralds the first of the 25 musical numbers in the show. It is called “The Awakening” and, as well as showcasing the five-piece live band, it gives the troupe of dancers the opportunity to perform the first of the dozen or so dance routines in the piece. The dramatic lighting effects, designed by Natalie Davey and Ross Mills, also add a great deal of atmosphere to the show.
Ross Logan and Lianne Stubbs are the principal dancers and the superb combination of his strength and her grace compliment each other well. They seem to have a genuine rapport and obviously love what they do. The two boys and four girls who complete the dance troupe keep their timing tight with their moves demonstrating that marvellous combination of rigidity and fluidity so typical of the style. Each live show also gives a guest spot to a local dance company and tonight we see the young girls from the Cannon School of Irish Dance, who are all both cute and talented.
The story continues, sometimes narrated by the pre-recorded soundtrack and, at other times, by the Principal Male Vocalist and Creative Director, Ged Graham. Unlike Chicago-born Flatley, Graham was born and raised in Dublin and he brings to the show that unmistakable air of authenticity. When he sings “Irish Rover”, “Carrickfergus” and “Galway Girl” his infectious charm has the entire audience singing and clapping and when he sings “Through the Eyes of an Irishman”, his is not the only tear-stained face.
Tiffany Low is the Lead Female Vocalist and she displays a huge range of styles throughout the show, with her soulful rendition of “Danny Boy” bringing the house down. She also performed well in the most interesting mash-up of the best of Irish pop that I have ever experienced, including hits from The Nolans, Boyzone, B*witched, Ronan Keating, D-Ream, Snow Patrol and The Script among others.
Special mention also goes to the talented musicians who all work tirelessly throughout the show. Liam Holmes doubles as both drummer and keyboard player with Nathan O'Borne supporting on keyboards as well as playing acoustic and lead guitars and Caroline Regan adds the traditional Irish sounds of tin whistle and concertina as well as supporting on vocals. Leanne Thorose also belts out some fantastic vocals and amazes the audience with her fiddle playing, most noticeably in the “Devil Went Down to Georgia” / “Nine to Five” medley.
With such a moving storyline keeping the whole show together, Essence of Ireland makes for a great night out for those who love Irish Dancing, but want something more added in.