Michael Flatley takes his latest show Celtic Tiger on an 11-city tour of Canada, and the Canucks slap him upside his toque. Are our neighbors to the north steamed by the show's crabbed tour of Irish history, its serving up of blarney in amounts deemed lethal by the World Health Organization, its seeming endorsement of sexual harrassment of flight attendents, its all-around Flatleyness? No, it's the Riverdance king's evident pro-Americanism. Says one negative reviewer:
…Celtic Tiger slams into a brick wall. In an obvious effort to impress his American audience, Captain Flatley appears in an airline uniform to fly us to the new world.
I know. I know. The traditional link between Ireland and America is strong but we come expecting an evening of Irish dance and we get the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders—or at least a Vegas babe who performs a sizzling strip tease right down to her skimpy stars-and-stripes underwear.
Then, in quick succession, a series of Latin, jive flamenco, tap and hip-hop dancers strut their stuff. A young lady right out of American Idol sings a pop song about "how your love gives me freedom."
"What has that got to do with Irish dance," groused the lady sitting next to me.
At one point, Flatley, who was brought up in Chicago, morphs into a Yankee Doodle Dandy complete with Uncle Sam outfit.
The great moves and vague but interesting story of the first act deteriorates into a Vegas variety show—a kitschy cabaret of Irish-American jingoism including huge portraits of such well-known American Irishmen as Pierce Brosnan, Liam Neeson and Jack Kennedy. I still don't get the fuzz guitar solo behind an overly familiar travelogue of the great American heartland.
At the end, in a rather obvious bow to where he is, Flatley's guitarist plays O Canada. He used his teeth as a guitar pick… Michael Flatley should concentrate more on his feet of fire and less on waving the flag.
…[w]hat starts out as a first-rate production suddenly dissolves in the second act into a cheesy testimonial to the good ol' U.S.A.
It opens with a flight attendant who, after being groped by Flatley and his group of pilots, decides to strip down to her American flag-decorated bra and underwear.
Later Flatley changes into pinstripes and a fedora to play a mobster in what can only be seen as a fallacious illustration of America's criminal history before joining the rest of the cast for the show's overly patriotic finale set to Yankee Doodle Dandy.
The show ends with the entire cast kicking up its heels while video of famous Irish Americans plays in the background.
While Celtic Tiger will certainly will be well-received in the U.S., it's over-the-top pro-American sentiment misses its mark here.
That's not to say Calgarians didn't enjoy the show, but it's likely their applause last night was directed more at Flatley's talented dancers than towards the story or its creator himself.
(Easy, Canadians! I know Calgary wasn't part of New France! But the show played Montreal too, and I'm sure there were reviewers there who, like our man in Calgary, discerned from the crowd's applause that they actually didn't like the show.)
So, as in 1812, another American invasion force limps home from the land of the Maple Leaf. But don't expect Flatley to be staring glumly down at his Feet of Flame. Thus speaks the Lord of the Dance:
"Life isn't about the number of times you're knocked down, it's about the number of times you get back up."