If home is really where the heart is, I may have to call The Ed Mirvish Theatre ‘home’ for the next six weeks. HEARTBEAT OF HOME, the new dance spectacular from Riverdance masterminds John McColgan and Moya Doherty, ran away with my heart after having it’s North American premiere in Toronto Sunday afternoon.
The show combines all the elements that made Riverdance an international tour de force and adds in brilliant new dimensions that delight and surprise. It has plenty of the Irish dancing one would expect from this duo, but spices things up with Latin and Afro-Cuban dancing as well.
Instead of focusing on Irish dance alone, the show begins on a small island and takes the audience on a journey around the world – showcasing different cultures, personalities and dance styles along the way. Each song has a unique twist, a special flair or an unexpected element that keeps you on the edge of your seat.
Everything you would expect from a bold and brassy Broadway style show is here – including beautiful original music by composer Brian Byrne and lyrics by Joseph O’Connor. The on-stage band command attention with their eclectic style and engaging personalities, blending incredibly well with the dancers to catapult the story along.
Top notch visual special effects by David Torpey help transport the audience to the various locales, and when combined with Peter Canning’s triumphant lighting serve to create some true theatrical magic. There’s one scene in particular in which they attempt to recreate a famous 1932 photograph of a group of construction workers lunching atop a skyscraper. McColgan has been quoted discussing how proud he is of this particular moment, and one can easily see why. The effect is jaw-dropping, and it is in large part due to the precision and execution of all the parts coming together at once.
Finally, there is the dancing. Heartbeat of Home has so many things working in its favour, but it is the incredible toe tapping, legs flying, dancers that make the production soar. There isn’t a weak link among them, and they work perfectly together as they combine such different (and difficult) styles of dance.
The Irish dancers weave in and out as we watch the other troupes tackle various forms of Latin and Afro-Cuban dance, each time coming back stronger than before. Even Lucia Evans, who lends her gorgeous voice to the production as it’s primary songstress, shows some footwork magic throughout the evening.
While every dancer was fantastic, they were also incredibly unique, exuding not only their own style but personality. I see this as the type of show where everyone could have a different ‘favourite’ – an impressive feat considering how well they work together in unison.
That said, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention leads Ciara Sexton and Bobby Hodges, who stand out not only with their impressive dance skills but also on-stage magnetism. It was hard to take your eyes off either of them – and it wasn’t just because they are beautiful.
In the end, Heartbeat of Home is everything a great theatre production should be. Creative, invigorating, sexy and inspiring, this is a show with a clear vision, even better execution, and more than the requisite amount of heart.
Heartbeat of Home is on stage now at The Ed Mirvish Theatre until March 2, 2014. To purchase tickets please call 416-872-1212 or go online to www.mirvish.com