I felt like I was watching a piece of theatre history unfolding on the stage in front of me. Sitting there in the auditorium of the Bord Gais Energy Theatre at Wednesday night's Gala Opening of the World Premiere of 'Heartbeat of Home- a Dream Voyage'.
I was on the edge of my seat with head bopping, feet tapping and jaw dropping from the very moment the screen lifted. The show started with a swift heartbeat of a hard shoe rally, a click of the heels and ended with a sudden, final dramatic flourish; to a full standing ovation.
And everything in between was just phenomenal.
In my opinion.
There were many in attendance who agreed with me and others who didn't.
Where to begin to describe the technical brilliance of Wednesday night's performance?
I'll start with the music which was thrilling, moving and expertly interpreted by the choreographers. I love when the band are on stage and incorporated within a show, as was the case here with the band on two movable podiums on stage right and left. Yeah, the band were separated! And it worked too. I was perplexed as to who was conducting? That job was surreptitiously done - no baton-waving or dramatic head nodding - by the Kit Drummer. The band were very much an integral part of this show and moments were allowed to bring the musicians to the audience, to truly display their wonderful talents. Watch out for the funky-haired, bare-footed, rock-chick bass player stage left!
The lead vocalist was Lucia Evans who has an amazing voice and gave a wonderful performance, singing some stunning songs and displaying a natural rapport with musicians and dancers alike.
One area in which a Daily Mail reviewer felt was lacking was the narrative. I could take her point on that. It wasn't always strong but, that said, I could follow it. This show is imaginative and interpretive with the story being told via the music, the set and the spectacular dancing. It's a story of emigration, arrival and immersion in a new community - in an 'unnamed country'. The costumes alone, which were simply wonderful, meant the story could refer to the original tale of Irish emigration or the more recent one. It could even be a tale of any country's emigrants. There is a contemporary feel to this show that will work as it travels the world. In my opinion.
The seemingly simple set design was used to stunning effect, with scenes being projected onto three curved backdrops. At times it was just a backdrop scene and at others it incorporated the sometimes moving set of stairs and became an integral part of a production number.
One particularly memorable moment was the stunning skyscape scene, which immediately brought New York to mind (and an audible group gasp from the audience) as it led into a fabulous rooftop dance sequence. A dance sequence which demonstrates the crossover between, Flamenco, Tap and Irish Hardshoe dancing. Loved it!
The 'Taking Flight' piece, for which the band took centre stage, is also worth a mention. Images portraying travelling vast lands, with the iconic sea-eagle sometimes in sight, floated across the backdrops as the band played on. This 'floating' seemed to gain momentum as the musicians played, and eventually the band themselves were almost totally encompassed by the travelling scene. It was a stunning, cinematic moment that was almost as show-stopping as some of the spectacular dance scenes. I loved it. The Daily Mail reviewer particularly disliked it!
And finally I come to the dancing. Oh wow, the spectacular dancing!
This show is a high octane fusion of powerful Irish dancing mixed with Flamenco, Afro-Cuban, Tango and street-dance preformed with such precision and to spectacular effect; which leaves your heart beating rapidly! The opening scene alone had me restraining myself from springing up into a solo standing ovation.
Most of the opening scene as performed on the Late Late Show recently.
Choreographers David Bolger and John Carey deserve special mention. There were some beautiful sequences with some funky, flexed footed lifts that I loved and the staging and seamless transitions were wonderful. Most noticeable when watching the Irish dancers hardshoe rallying and trebling with their feet, while their top half gave a Salsa twist or a Tango flick before they left the stage (or blended in) to the relevant dance tradition. The Flamenco, Salsa, Tango sequences etc., were fabulous but every time the Irish dancers appeared it was just dramatic. John's choreography was perfect. The 'Tempest' scene deserves special mention where the dancers themselves create the music through a fabulous hardshoe routine, performed to yet another amazing scenic backdrop, accompanied by stormy sounds.
I could go on and on in a positive vein but I won't.
Instead I'll let the video above speak for itself, even though it only gives half the effect of seeing it live on stage, and give you a review video that gives a flavour of some of the other tremendous dance scenes:
In my honest opinion 'Heartbeat of Home' rivals 'Riverdance.'
This show will soon be traveling to China, Toronto Canada and Chicago USA.
Wherever in the world you are, if this show comes to your corner of it go.see.it. And make up your own mind.
I would definitely go see it again. And again.
In a heartbeat.