An Irish dance champion’s professed swan song, in Las Vegas, on St. Patrick’s Day. Think some Bushmills and Guinness just might be involved afterward?
“The stars are aligning, as they say,” Michael Flatley says with a chuckle of what’s billed as his final performance, when “Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games” plays the Colosseum at Caesars Palace on March 17.
“We’re going to have a nice party,” the low-key dancer and producer says over the telephone. “And also going to celebrate: It’s our 20th anniversary this year. So it’s sort of a double whammy. We’ve got a lot of wonderful people coming in for it.”
Flatley is speaking of the 20th anniversary of “Lord of the Dance,” which he created after he became a ’90s pop-culture phenomenon in “Riverdance” but left after a falling out with its producers.
“Dangerous Games,” the latest incarnation, ran eight weeks in New York last fall. Promoters then talked Flatley into postponing his retirement for some tour dates, before the show continues to tour without him dancing the final two numbers and encore.
“They gave me a few places where I could have finished,” the 57-year-old says, and his hometown of Chicago was certainly tempting.
“But when they mentioned Las Vegas and Caesars Palace, I just decided that’s the right place. I love Vegas; I’ve always loved Vegas. My wife and I just love it. I go to all the fights there. I have an awful lot of friends there, and some of the best restaurants in America are there.”
Flatley also has an odd association with the city. His Caesars show bookends a 19-year stretch since his feet actually set foot on a Las Vegas stage.
The original “Lord of the Dance” sold out the MGM Grand Garden on the July 4 weekend of 1997. But he’s never been back. Flatley’s 2006 tour, “Celtic Tiger,” was booked for Las Vegas but canceled, with much of the tour, after Flatley was hospitalized with a viral infection.
Why then will longtime locals swear they used to see his name advertised all the time? “Lord of the Dance” ran on the Strip without him for nearly five years: At New York-New York, from 1998 to mid-2002, then at The Venetian until July 2003.
“I knew it was a great opportunity. One of the first things I did was to splinter the shows because the demand was too intense,” he recalls. “There was a time I had five companies on the road. It was created for me, but it’s a character the person is playing,” he says of the title role.
Reviews of “Games” sound much like the “Lord” that parked on the Strip: full of dry ice, explosions and fantasy-world showdowns between good and evil. “Lord of the Rings” meets “WWE Smackdown” on the hedgerow.
“My whole dream was to create a big show that could compete in the big arenas like all the rock bands,” Flatley says. “We’ve done that. Keep dancers employed so they can make a living doing what they love to do. We’ve done that for 20 years. We’ve changed the face of this type of dance with this show. Mission accomplished.
“It’s perfect timing now for me to step aside and let the young blood take over.”
When offered a Peyton Manning analogy, Flatley agreed it was a good one (even though the interview took place before the veteran quarterback formalized his anticipated retirement Monday).
“I don’t want to be remembered for being less than this now,” Flatley says. “I’m so fit, I’m so ready, I feel as if I’m dancing those two numbers better than I ever have. … So it’s a perfect time for me to stand down. It’s just perfect timing.”
Flatley and Brian Flanagan this week released a new single, “The Rising,” in advance of an upcoming movie with the same name. Flatley plays flute on the charity single to commemorate the heroes of the 1916 Easter Rebellion to end British rule in Ireland.
“I’m also a painter,” Flatley says, “and my painting has really taken off in the last year or so. I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire, as they say.”
And of course the dance shows go on, with Flatley as producer. “I’ve got some terrific talent coming up now,” he says. “I’m so happy with the young lads that are taking over the lead roles … they’re just remarkable. Every one of them. One is as good as the other one. They’re just dynamite. The audiences are going crazy for them; the women love them.”
But they will have to wait until after St. Patrick’s Day to inherit the spotlight, because March 17 will belong to Flatley.
“All of my dancers are buzzing. It’s a wonderful night. It’s gonna be great fun. After 20 years, it’s a beautiful way to end my career.”
Read more from Mike Weatherford at reviewjournal.com. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @Mikeweatherford on Twitter.
What: “Lord of the Dance: Dangerous Games”
When: 7:30 p.m. March 17
Where: Colosseum at Caesars Palace, 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South
Tickets: $49.95-$125 (888-929-7849)