Nat’l Tour / Chicago Theater Review: HEARTBEAT OF HOME (Oriental Theatre)

by Lawrence Bommer on March 6, 2014

in Theater-Chicago,Tours

Post image for Nat’l Tour / Chicago Theater Review: HEARTBEAT OF HOME (Oriental Theatre)

STEPS THAT SOAR

Produced by Moya Doherty, the dynamo behind Riverdance, director John McColgan’s well-crafted spinoff just launched its U.S. premiere at Chicago’s Oriental Theatre before continuing its tour (Detroit, Boston, New York City and Los Angeles are some of the stops). This exuberant spectacle delivers dance the way a slot machine pours out coins—effortlessly, unstoppably, and very gratefully received.

Scene from “Heartbeat of Home,” a music and dance spectacular from the producers of “Riverdance.” Produced by Moya Doherty, directed by John McColgan, choreography by David Bolger and Irish Dance Choreography by John Carey. The world-class cast of thirty-nine includes music by Brian Byrne.

Yes, there are many different beats heard and homelands visited in Heartbeat of Home, but its action-packed argument remains the same as its powerful predecessor’s: The rhythms of life pulsate in our blood, changing with culture, but immutable and vibrant. An opening storm, replete with well-timed lightning by designer Peter Canning, makes it clear: Heartbeat is its own natural wonder.

Scene from “Heartbeat of Home,” a music and dance spectacular from the producers of “Riverdance.” Produced by Moya Doherty, directed by John McColgan, choreography by David Bolger and Irish Dance Choreography by John Carey. The world-class cast of thirty-nine includes music by Brian Byrne.

As performed by 37 supercharged performers, including 10 musicians, this Latin-Afro/Cuban/Irish amalgam of step dancing, mambos, salsas, lambadas, tangos, breakdancing, and showcase solos pours its heart out through its limbs. Brian Byrne’s supple score–an inexhaustible, neo-New Age outpouring of Afro/Celtic/Euro pop–is played by competing combos on bandstands that revolve around Alan Farquharson’s set as if to globalize harmony.

Scene from “Heartbeat of Home,” a music and dance spectacular from the producers of “Riverdance.” Produced by Moya Doherty, directed by John McColgan, choreography by David Bolger and Irish Dance Choreography by John Carey. The world-class cast of thirty-nine includes music by Brian Byrne.

Adding visual thrills, three video cycloramas create IMAX-like effects (designed by David Torpey/Image Now), depicting everything from waves at sunset to a club with altitude to soaring skyscrapers—perfect backdrops for all the right moves from a highly attractive young cast: Good looks and lean bodies are a constant currency. Symbolizing the continuity of pure movement is an eagle that soars across the screens (occasionally disconcerting, one video has lilting evergreen Irish melodies illustrated by swooping vistas of a very arid Monument Valley).

Scene from “Heartbeat of Home,” a music and dance spectacular from the producers of “Riverdance.” Produced by Moya Doherty, directed by John McColgan, choreography by David Bolger and Irish Dance Choreography by John Carey. The world-class cast of thirty-nine includes music by Brian Byrne.

Minus the grandiloquently florid narrative that interrupted Riverdance and Lord of the Dance, David Bolger’s choreographic confection makes the talent the text–despite the occasional kitschy overkill that PBS loves to flaunt for its fundraisers (the Irish Dance Choreography is by John Carey). Inspired by the fluidity and force that makes music matter, these Irish, Latin, Flamenco, and Afro-Cuban dancers blend precision with passion—whether competing with or complementing each other—in kick lines, two-steps, or tag-team dance-offs. There’s also the obligatory salute to the improvised wonders of the all-percussive Stomp!

Scene from “Heartbeat of Home,” a music and dance spectacular from the producers of “Riverdance.” Produced by Moya Doherty, directed by John McColgan, choreography by David Bolger and Irish Dance Choreography by John Carey. The world-class cast of thirty-nine includes music by Brian Byrne.

As always sporting 4% body fat, the Irish step dancers, led by the comely combo of Carla Sexton and Bobby Hodges, are pure verticality, their arms used only for emphasis but the feet flashing faster than they eye or ear can follow—with a little rhythmic enhancement from the orchestra. Flamenco dancers Rocio Montoya and Stefano Domit get wrapped up in their own rhapsodies (and each other). Afro-Cuban wonders Teneisha Bonner, Kieran Donovan, and Renako McDonald emphasize hips and knees as they swing with soul. Headed by triple-jointed, well-named Clare Craze, the six sexy syncopated Latin dancers simmer and sizzle, flinging fun in all directions.

Scene from “Heartbeat of Home,” a music and dance spectacular from the producers of “Riverdance.” Produced by Moya Doherty, directed by John McColgan, choreography by David Bolger and Irish Dance Choreography by John Carey. The world-class cast of thirty-nine includes music by Brian Byrne.

Following the well-earned curtain calls, there’s a seemingly spontaneous mega mix in which the band get to strut their stuff. It’s well worth the wait.

Scene from “Heartbeat of Home,” a music and dance spectacular from the producers of “Riverdance.” Produced by Moya Doherty, directed by John McColgan, choreography by David Bolger and Irish Dance Choreography by John Carey. The world-class cast of thirty-nine includes music by Brian Byrne.photos by Jim Byrne

Heartbeat of Home
presented by Broadway in Chicago
Oriental Theater
scheduled to end on March 16, 2014
for tickets call 800-775-2000
or visit www.Broadwayin Chicago.com
for more info and tour dates,
visit www.heartbeatofhome.com

for info on this and other Chicago Theater,
visit  http://www.TheatreinChicago.com

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