Broadway Series South will bring the Magic Arts & Entertainment and Global Entertainment Group touring production of Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance, the international Celtic dance sensation with its specially commissioned score by Irish composer Ronan Hardiman, back to BTI Center for the Performing Arts for six performances, starting tonight. U.S. Tour Troupe Two, with its critically acclaimed cast of Irish-dance champions from around the world, will magically transform the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium into a bit of old Ireland Jan. 8-11.

“The story is based on old Irish folklore a basic story of good vs. evil,” claims Chuck Rounds, in reviewing Lord of the Dance for IGOSHOWS.COM. “The Dark Lord and his followers challenge the Good Lord (the Lord of the Dance) and his followers. Good triumphs over evil in the end; I came, I danced, I conquered; and it all ends happily in a dance.”

Michael Flatley will serve as creative director for this North American tour. Lord of the Dance debuted in Dublin in 1996 and has since become a box-office record-setter with more than $500 million in tickets sold in more than 35 countries worldwide.

The 45-year-old Chicago-born son of Irish immigrants not only conceived and choreographed the original production of this show, but also played the title role. Indeed, the name Michael Flatley is synonymous with Irish dance, wherever Riverdance (1994), Lord of the Dance (1996), and Feet of Flames (1998) have quickened the pulses of audiences of all races, colors, creeds, languages, and ethnic backgrounds.

Before he became a lord of the international dance world, Flatley started out life as a construction worker on the South Side of the Windy City. But working in his family’s construction business left Flatley unfulfilled. He dreamed of dancing. (His mother and maternal grandmother were dance champions and early inspirations and teachers.)

Eleven-year old Michael Flatley had to be dragged by his parents to the Dennehy School of Irish Dance. But, by age 17, Flatley became the first American to be named All-World Irish Dancing Champion. (Flatley, who also studied traditional Irish flute, won several titles as All-Ireland Flute Champion.)

Flatley’s ambition to become a professional Irish Dancer a then unheard of occupation eventually took him to Dublin, where his 1993 standout performance in the Spirit of Mayo festival of Irish music and dance led to a commission to create an act to fill an intermission during the 1994 Eurovision Song Contest. That electrifying seven-minute act, which debuted on April 30, 1994, evolved into Riverdance and made Michael Flatley an overnight sensation. It became the centerpiece of that full-length show, for which Flatley served as principal dancer and choreographer, when Riverdance premiered in Dublin in February of 1995. It became a landmark dance extravaganza that popularized Irish step dancing and songs.

There was great controversy when Flatley left Riverdance in October 1995. But just 11 days after leaving that show, Flatley started work on his own production, Lord of the Dance, which he conceived, choreographed, directed, and produced. Lord of the Dance debuted on July 2, 1996 at the Point Theatre in Dublin.

Flatley, who holds the record for tap-dancing speed (35 taps per second in 1998) in the Guinness Book of World Records, headlined Lord of the Dance for more than two years. But he took his final bow as the everyday star of the show on June 28, 1998.

“Michael Flatley is unbelievably creative and talented,” says Marie Duffy-Messenger, who serves as dance director for U.S. Tour Troupe Two, in preshow publicity. “He is so inspiring. His energy, his enthusiasm, his passion are contagious. I believe that is one of the many reasons why the show has succeeded so superbly.”

The show’s pres kit also claims that Marie Duffy-Messenger is “the most successful Irish dance teacher/choreographer of modern times.”

The show’s publicist adds, “As creative director [Michael Flatley] permanently reviews each production, in collaboration with a team of experts, to ensure the very highest standards are maintained and built upon. Michael is the first to admit that no show can ever rest on the laurels of former glories and become complacent if it is ever to continue to be successful. For that reason he is constantly coming up with brilliant new ideas with which to spice up each production, to keep it fresh, exciting and original. Something very special for the audiences.”

And he quotes Marie Duffy-Messenger as saying, “The traditional style [of Irish step dancing] was performed with the upper body quite still and the arms down by the side,” she says. “The soft shoe for the girls may be considered slightly balletic, but the techniques are different. In the heavy shoe which is performed by both males and females, it sounds like tap, but it’s more powerful and strenuous. Similarly with flamenco, it’s far more intricate in its footwork.”

She adds, “I feel that the success of the show is greatly due to the wonderful young dancers and their dedication. And the energy that they project never fails to bring an audience to its feet.”

The Los Angeles Times called Lord of the Dance “a showpiece extravaganza”; and the New York Post saluted the show as “fascinating, rewarding and, above all, entertaining.”

In short, Lord of the Dance is a must-see musical. Don’t miss it.

Broadway Series South presents Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance Thursday-Friday, Jan. 8-9, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Jan 10, at 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Jan. 11, at 2 and 7 p.m. in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the BTI Center for the Performing Arts, 1 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $21-$56. BTI Box Office: 919/831-6060. Ticketmaster: 919/834-4000 or Group Sales: 919/231-4575 or Broadway Series South: Lord of the Dance: [inactive 2/04] . Fan Site: Michael Flatley: [inactive 3/04] . His E-mail Address: