'Lord of the Dance' fast-steps into Cape Girardeau

Friday, May 14, 2004

Since it opened in 1996, "Lord of the Dance" has filled large venues the world over and on Wednesday, Cape Girardeau will play host to Michael Flatley's Irish dance extravaganza.

The production almost single-handedly thrust Irish dance into the spotlight and became a pop culture phenomenon, meaning that in addition to popularity and praise, it has also been the frequent brunt of jokes, especially when it comes to Flatley's over-the-top persona.

However, dancer Adam McSharry, who has been with "Lord of the Dance" for six years, said the jibes do not bother him or the other dancers, instead they think of it as free publicity.

"If they weren't mocking it, it wouldn't be important," he said.

McSharry, who is from Birmingham, England, is quite familiar with Mike Myers' impression of Michael Flatley and said he and other dancers have laughed their heads off over that and some other spoofs of the production.

They can afford to laugh because the popularity of "Lord of the Dance" continues year after year. The show is so popular that there are currently four dance troupes participating in shows around the world, including a permanent Las Vegas show.

The other troupes tour Europe, South Africa and America.

McSharry stars as the show's lead villain, Don Dorcha, although he has performed on stage with Flatley and appeared in a spin-off of the production, "Feet of Flames."

Cape Girardeau marks about the midway point for the tour, which started March 13 and will continue until June 15.

Before stopping by the Show Me Center, "Lord of the Dance" will be making a weekend appearance in Chicago, which McSharry said should be a big show because it is the hometown of Flatley, whose parents still reside there.

Flatley's parents are Irish immigrants and Flatley became involved in Irish dancing at age 11, going on to become the first American to win a World Championship in Irish Dance. Flatley created "Lord of the Dance" after he left the successful Irish Dance show "Riverdance" in 1996.

"Lord of the Dance" features 40 dancers who complete an estimated 151,200 taps per performance. McSharry called it "Irish dancing times 10."

As for the energy on stage, where as many as 25 dancers can be on stage at once, McSharry said it does not let up, but gets more intense as the show goes on.

While one night of dancing in the production would leave most people sore for weeks, McSharry said he does not even notice the physical impact of performing any more.

"I think it's second nature by now," he said. "You just build up your stamina every night."

While the actual dance steps have remained the same, McSharry said there have been some costume, set and choreography changes made to "Lord of the Dance" over the years. According to McSharry, Flatley, who is now billed as the show's artistic director, still has a major role in the production.

Although the focus is on the dancing, "Lord of the Dance" also has a plot that is based loosely on Irish mythology. It is a struggle between good and evil played out through dance as the dark lord Don Dorcha challenges the Lord of the Dance.

While the production has a good story, costumes and stage design, McSharry said it is the dancing that keeps people coming back to "Lord of the Dance."

"Basically, I think it's just a good, Irish dancing show," he said. "I think people are amazed by it."

kalfisi@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 182

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