Who cheers for the bad guy in “Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance?”
Every one at the Palace Theatre, that’s who.
It’s because under the Nazi-inspired helmet, the faux leather tunic and a steely mask is Declan Crowley, a Burnt Hills native whose dream was to appear in an Irish dance spectacular.
Now that the champion dancer’s dearest goal has been realized, his friends, family and neighbors poured into the Palace on Wednesday night to cheer his success. And even though the Irish dance show has been stripped of much of its original Las Vegas glitz, Crowley’s triumphant homecoming and the crowd’s collective enthusiasm restored some of this aging creation’s glory. It delighted and almost dazzled.
Since its last appearance here, the show has been upgraded by technology but downgraded in production value. The sets have been replaced by video on which atmospheric images of horses, stars, swans and fire flashed.
That worked, but what did not were the risers that have replaced the former spaceship-like vehicle. It had a door that devoured the Lord after the evil one, Dorcha, and his henchmen beat the Lord into submission. The risers, on the other hand, gave this battle for the title of Lord, danced by Matthew Smith, the look of a high school production.
Many of the costumes have changed, too. Elegant and plush velvets have given way to cheesy sequins. The singer, once a magical figure, stood out more as a sex symbol in her body-hugging gowns. But the show’s designated temptress, who tried to seduce the Lord, wore a unitard instead of her red mini-skirt. The unitard was not sexy.
Also strange was the choice of outfit for the fairy with the penny whistle. She was dressed as a colorful court jester. And the curly wigs on the girls looked cheap, even from afar, and therefore hideous.
Bad costuming aside, the dancing was darn good. Crowley punctuated his kicks and jabs with a generous dose of machismo. Smith, as the Lord, looked too innocent to be thoroughly convincing as the dominating force in this Flatley-made universe. But his hits with his hard shoes were precise, and no one onstage could kick higher than him.
Disappointing was the Colleen, danced by Louise Hayden, who wasn’t light on her feet. She showed her effort, which was not only distracting but unattractive. But her rival, danced by Andres Kren, was breezy, one of the few Irish dancers who actually knew how to use her arms to graceful effect.
The chorus of dancers really deserved a great deal of credit. They created the high energy that excited the audience. When they bounced out in their hard shoes and hammered their feet in synchronicity, the power of their brash rhythm was riveting.
Of course, audiences could not resist the finale, in which Smith, with Crowley right behind him, directed the dancers to repeat the wave of taps to the theme song over and over and over.
Yes, it was corny. But “Lord of the Dance” still outlives and outdoes most dance-driven shows. In that way, Crowley chose well.