REVIEW: ‘Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games’ features marvelous dancing, cheesy storytelling

Michael Flatley directed and created Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games. He is currently starring in the show on Broadway. Photo courtesy of Brian Doherty for Rapa Investments.
Michael Flatley directed and created Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games. He is currently starring in the show on Broadway. Photo courtesy of Brian Doherty for Rapa Investments.

NEW YORK — Michael Flatley, one of the greatest and most celebrated Irish step-dancers of all time, will soon hang up his shoes and enjoy retirement. Before then, he can be seen in Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games at the Lyric Theatre on Broadway. The show, directed and created by Flatley, is an Irish step-dancing extravaganza, but in its quest to entertain, it can feel cheesy and overanxious to put a smile on the face of the crowd.

Flatley only appears at the end of select performances (no matinees), but when he’s on stage, there’s a higher level of energy and precision. He’s a smart and talented dancer, one whose furious stepping over the years has earned him an unparalleled reputation. Even though his Broadway debut only offers a glimpse into the excellence, it’s enough to enjoy immensely. He has a way, in a few steps, of demanding attention, aligning his fellow dancers and bringing attitude to the steps. For purely nostalgic reasons, Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games is probably required viewing for his fans.

The show, running two hours with intermission, follows a loose storyline of good vs. evil. The good is personified by the title character, the so-called Lord of the Dance. At a recent performance, James Keegan played the part with bravado, speed and technical accuracy, bounding across the enormous stage of the Lyric Theatre with ease.

Michael Flatley plans to retire after his Broadway performances and U.S. tour in Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games, currently playing the Lyric Theatre. Photo courtesy of Brian Doherty of Rapa Investments.
Michael Flatley plans to retire after his Broadway performances and subsequent U.S. tour in Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games, currently playing the Lyric Theatre. Photo courtesy of Brian Doherty of Rapa Investments.

There’s also a bad guy, decked out like a Borg from Star Trek, and robotic creations that light up like a high school science experiment. Troupes of female and male dancers fill out the rest of the cast, and the High-Defintion backdrop displays accompanying visuals and vivid colors.

These extra elements — the costumes, the projections, the dramatic narrative — are what bring down an otherwise enjoyable show. If Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games stuck with the dancing and offered less overt storytelling and obvious spectacle, the focus would rightly remain on the performers and their intricate steps. Instead, audience members almost have to chuckle at the corny images that are blasted into the Lyric Theatre.

The artistic merit is suffocated by the artistic presentation. Honestly, did the show need its own trailer built into the performance?

The company is at its most thrilling during the group numbers, when the characteristic Flatley moves are employed to full effect. These dancers certainly know how drill their feet on the floor in a rhythmic passion that emphasizes the inherent energy of the art form. Flatley has taken Irish step-dancing to a new cultural level, expanding its context and definition.

A vocalist belts out a few songs in the two-act performance, although the tunes fail to register, at least as much as the dance numbers. Gerard Fahy has created a largely serviceable score. Faring better are the two fiddle players who offer toe-tapping music in a jig-like atmosphere.

Flatley, his choreography and his dancers are the reason audiences are probably heading to the Lyric Theatre, and also London’s West End with another touring company is staging the show (without the man of the hour). He will be missed, even if Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games fails to live up to his lofty career.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

  • Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games
  • Created, directed and starring Michael Flatley
  • Running time: 2 hours
  • Currently playing at the Lyric Theatre at 213 W. 42nd St. in Manhattan, N.Y. Click here for more information on tickets.
  • Rating: ★★☆☆

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications.

E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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