The "Lord of the Dance," in Honolulu for the first time since 1998, features a mesmerizing cast of dancers.

‘Lord’ lives up
to the hype

Remember the dance show that played Honolulu a few years ago and the annoying woman in the show who appeared to be "fiddle-synching" rather than actually playing the instrument?

'Lord of the Dance'

Presented at Blaisdell Concert Hall at 3 and 7:30 p.m. today; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; and 3 p.m. on Mother's Day. Tickets are $44 to $59. Call 1-877-750-4400 for tickets. Groups of 20 or more can get a 10 percent discount by calling 732-7733.

Well, "Lord of the Dance," which opened in the Blaisdell Arena on Friday, isn't it! There are two violinists in Michael Flatley's well-known celebration of Irish dance, and there was no question Friday night that the women were playing every note.

This is the second time "Lord" has played Honolulu. A few clueless souls who expected a staid folkloric recreation of pre-modern Irish culture were taken by surprise when "Lord" played Blaisdell Arena in 1998. Flatley's calculated use of stage smoke, colorful costumes, concert-quality music tracks and synchronized lighting in presenting a tightly choreographed representation of the battle between good and evil took the traditions of Celtic dance light years away from the "auld sod" of Ireland.

Local folks who took "Lord" for what it was intended to be loved the experience.

"Lord" lives up to those memories the second time around. Flatley, who originated the title role, never danced it here, and the highly touted guy who headlined in 1998 didn't return. Anyone seeing "Lord" for the first time won't miss either of them.

Don McCarron is tall, blond and charismatic in the title role. His rapid-fire rat-a-tat-tat footwork is phenomenal and certainly up to the standards set by his predecessors as he dances his way through Flatley's cross-cultural choreography.

McCarron has the physical goods necessary for leading-man status, and the acting skills as well. When McCarron invites audience applause, he makes the gesture seem like a spontaneous expression of his own energy and enthusiasm rather than an act of an entertainer seeking validation. The intensity of his performance in the encore is particularly impressive.

Adam McSharry, who plays Don Dorcha, the Dark Lord, is excellent as the designated villain. His broad acting adds important shadings to the character even though it is the power and precision of his dancing that is the foundation of the role.

McSharry's efforts to get the audience directly involved during his dancing duels with McCarron didn't elicit much response from Honolulu's politely reticent dance fans on opening night, but it's OK to boo the villain when he invites you to, folks, so go ahead and boo -- or cheer -- McSharry when the opportunity comes.

Ciara Lennon, who plays Morrighan, the Temptress, radiates sensuality and seductive allure as the enigmatic woman in red who might, in a traditional folk tale, represent all kinds of appealing but sinful behavior.

Lennon is a powerful dramatic presence from her first number. Her physical presence and expressive features catch the eye, whether she's the featured dancer or one of several.

Geraldine Bergin, as Saorise, the Irish Colleen, has the lighter role, but is no less accomplished as the "good girl" of the romantic triangle that culminates in a pivotal number in Act II.

The larger story casts the eternal battle between good and evil in a Celtic context. The setting is the courtyard of a dark medieval castle decorated with Celtic designs. Don Dorcha breaks the Little Spirit's flute and challenges the reigning Lord of the Dance to battle -- the winner evidently gets the castle, the title, and a big belt similar to those worn by professional wrestlers that proclaims the wearer to be "Lord of the Dance."

The show is a perfect fit in the concert hall. The smaller venue makes it easier to appreciate the dancers' attitudes as well as their footwork. Men will find the women mesmerizing -- the dance line as well as Lennon and Bergin. Women will doubtlessly scrutinize the male dancers and their striking costumes with similar interest.

The lower stage in the concert hall allows for more interaction. McSharry jumped off the stage on Friday and took a seat with the audience for a few minutes. McCarron went into the audience briefly as well.

The narrative slows when the fiddlers take over, or when the goddess Erin sings, but nothing ever drags. The fiddlers' energy and showmanship while playing over the electronic orchestral tracks maintains the excitement level. The goddess' voice touches the soul.

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