“The stories had all been written and everyone knew their parts.

“But the ancient clans, sitting in their stone circles, heard rumblings and the Spirit’s dream was troubled. A new dark power had emerged to challenge the Lord of the Dance.

“The little Spirit travels through time and space to help the Lord of the Dance protect his mythical people. On an incredible adventure, they encounter love, desire, and danger.”

These flowery program notes for Chicago-based Jam Theatricals’ touring version of Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance strongly suggest a mysterious even mythological plot, which the show delivers. This magnificent 1996 Irish dance and music extravaganza, brought to Raleigh Memorial Auditorium by Broadway Series South, received a unusually prolonged standing ovation at the final curtain opening night (Jan. 8th) long enough for the cast to perform two enthusiastically received encores.

The current U.S. tour of Lord of the Dance is an enchanting series of Celtic stories, songs, and dances as brilliantly reimagined and cleverly choreographed by Chicago-born Irish dance king Michael Flatley, in close collaboration with dance director Marie Duffy-Messenger and composer Ronan Hardiman. The show is set sometime in the misty dawn of the Emerald Isle, when mischievous magical spirits and green goddesses and warring clans of prehistoric Celtic lads and lasses roamed pagan Ireland and worshipped the sun in stone circles a la Stonehenge, that world-famous prehistoric monument on Salisbury Plain in southwestern England.

Although the unusually thin Broadway Series South program for Lord of the Dance devotes almost a full page to a biography of Michael Flatley and a biographical note on Marie Duffy-Messenger, the performers and musicians and the artisans who created the show’s splendid scenery, which mimics the courtyard of an ancient castle; its timeless Technicolor costumes, some with armor breastplates; and the spectacular lighting, pyrotechnics, and other special effects go entirely uncredited, except to say that the show features “members of the Lord of the Dance Troupe: The Clan of the Celts, The Warlords, The Warriors, [and] The Girls of Ireland.” So, the only way to “review” individual performances is to call the performers and musicians by the character’s names.

The handsome, blonde, and muscular Lord of the Dance the high-octane role that Michael Flatley created in the original 1996 production in Dublin was a regular ball of fire in tap shoes. His fierce ongoing contest with dark-haired, Lone Ranger-masked, and muscular Don Dorcha, a.k.a. The Dark Lord, and his masked henchmen was the show’s primary storyline. The good lord and the bad lord constantly competed for the love of a good woman (Saoirse), the amorous affections of a bad girl (Morrighan), and especially for supremacy in various forms of traditional Irish dance. It was Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader all over again, but without the age difference and the unfortunate familial tie.

Beautiful, blonde Saoirse The Irish Colleen was a vision of Celtic loveliness and purity; and sultry, raven-haired Morrighan The Temptress was a temptation that not every saint could resist. In her flowing green gown and cape, Erin the Goddess was a superb songstress, with a sparkling silver voice; and the impish Spirit, who sides with the Lord of the Dance in his epic battles against The Dark Lord, made beautiful music on the Irish flute.

But it was The Violins a fantastic pair of fiddlers, one male and one female that stole the show. During “Strings of Fire” and “The Lament,” fire figuratively flew from their fingertips a la Charlie Daniels in “The Devil Came Down to Georgia.” And The Violins received, perhaps, the most enthusiastic audience response during the two well-deserved curtain calls for this must-see musical.

Broadway Series South presents Michael Flatley’s Lord of the Dance Friday, Jan. 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 http://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/864242. Group Sales: 919/231-4575 or http://www.priorityseating.net/. Broadway Series South: http://www.broadwayseriessouth.com/2003-2004/specials.html#lotd. Lord of the Dance: http://www.lordofthedance.com/ [inactive 2/04]. Fan Site: http://customcreate.com/lotd/. Michael Flatley: http://www.michaelflatley.com/ [inactive 3/04] . His E-mail Address: fanmail@michaelflatley.com.