REVIEW: HEARTBEAT OF HOME (Piccadilly Theatre) ★★★

Riverdance became the global phenomenon twenty five years ago, in a seven minute interval act on the Eurovision Sing Contest and has gone on to be staged in many incarnations ever since. This latest derivative version started in Dublin in 2013 and has enjoyed a sell out spell at the London Palladium before returning for a seven week season at the Piccadilly Theatre.

The concept, developed by John McGolgan (the director), is to base the show on the emigrants who travelled to a new life in America from Ireland, Africa and Cuba and how this journey and their integration creates a fusion of musical dance styles.

It is an unusual dance show as it is the music that seems to often take centre stage with the six musicians coming off the side rostrum to hog the spotlight on the fore stage with Brian Byrne’s original compositions. They are excellent musicians but when we are split (pantomime style) in half to clap along it does seem a bit self indulgent. The showcase of Mark Alfred’s bodhran (twice) and Cathal Croke’s Uilleann pipes and the instrumental “Taking Flight” with its projection following a bird across the wilderness, gives the dancers a chance to catch their breath!

The staging is slick and attractive, with wonderful stage projections by David Torpay that frame the dance sequences. The tone of the show is set in the opening scene “Heartbeat” with pinpoint lighting and David Bolger and John Carey’s choreography introducing the principle dancers (including the disciplined Irish dancers Maggie Darlington and Bobby Hodges and Latin dancers Pablo Egea, Rocio Montoya and Valeria Milova).

There is plenty of well drilled, synchronised, foot tapping Irish line dancing to admire (although for me the moves are too repetitive) emphasising the roots of the show. However my personal highlights were the colourful upbeat and energetic “Baila Conmigo” with singer Azania and dancer Pablo Aegean; “Fiesta Mundo” where we see the different worlds meld together and “Don’t slip off”, a brilliant tongue in cheek contest between Latin and Irish dance on a New York skyscraper building site made famous in a photograph. Singer Azania also shone in “The night I danced” and Ella Redhead with Paaliba Abugre took the limelight with some contemporary street dance.

This is a large talented cast of over thirty five and they all look as if they are enjoying themselves as they share centre stage. It is always upbeat and fun, often sexy and impressive and if you are attracted by the idea of Riverdance meets Strictly, you are sure to enjoy this lively and entertaining show.

Reviewed by Nick Wayne


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