Interview: Anthony Street and Georgia May (Celtic Illusion Reimagined)

Ten years after its creation, Celtic Illusion is back touring the country with a new production Celtic Illusions Reimagined

Ten years after its creation, Celtic Illusion is back touring the country with a new production Celtic Illusions Reimagined. Fusing modern Irish dance and mesmerising illusions, Celtic Illusion Reimagined opens its 60-show tour across Australia in Adelaide on Saturday 17th July at the wonderful Her Majesty’s Theatre.

Celtic Illusion Reimagined stars the multi-talented former lead dancer of Michael Flatley’s Lord Of The Dance and star illusionist Anthony Street, and Adelaide-born Georgia May, a marvel in both dance and illusion.

Anthony Street grew up in Melbourne, surrounded by racing cars and football, but he instantly fell in love with Irish dance after watching Riverdance, though at the time he never thought it would become his career.

“I didn’t even know when I first started that this could be my career. I took it up as a hobby after seeing Riverdance on TV, and I was instantly hooked. I started dance classes straight away and it became my passion. I wanted, at the time, to work in film and TV but when I was 19, I was approached by a dancer from another production who told me that if he could get me a spot in that show would I be interested in joining them on tour. So, what was meant to be a 6 month tour has ended up being a career.”

Co-star Georgia May, hailing from Adelaide, had a similar experience.

“I started dancing ballet, tap, jazz and musical theatre when I was quite young. Then Riverdance made an appearance on the Eurovision Song Contest in 1994; I had never seen Irish dancing before that. Suddenly all of these Irish dancing schools started to pop up everywhere around Adelaide. I saw a dancing school do a performance at my local shopping centre for St Patrick’s Day one year, and that was it. As soon as I saw it, I had to do it. I begged my Mum to take me to Irish dancing classes and I think she thought I was going to become a Prima Ballerina for the Australian Ballet Company, but I definitely had other ideas. I don’t know what it is about the dance form, but I knew I had to do it. One thing led to another and I got quite a few lucky opportunities to dance in shows, and it’s just fallen in this way that it is now my career. I had always hoped and dreamed that one day I’d have a career like I do, but didn’t think it would truly happen when I was younger. I’m so very lucky it has.”

For four and a half years, Anthony was also the first Australian to perform the lead role in Michael Flatley’s widely acclaimed Lord Of The Dance.

“It was a career highlight. I didn’t think it was impossible – I have the mindset that in life everything is possible if you put your mind to it. If people tell me something’s not possible, I see that as a challenge to make it happen. When I first watched the video of Lord Of The Dance, I didn’t think that would be me up there one day, but when I took up Irish dancing, and I was picking it up quickly, I set my eyes on that goal and I am so very honoured to now have been able to do that role in that show. It’s the biggest dance show in the world, and to have taken that lead role is a big career highlight.”

Celtic Illusion was created in 2011. The show has gone on to regularly tour across Australia, New Zealand and the world. Anthony explained how it came to fruition by the combination of two dreams of his.

“Magic has always been another passion of mine: a bit of a side hobby I had when I was young. Basically, I had a dream to have a large illusion show, and a large dance show. I came to the realisation that I may not have the time in life to achieve both of these dreams, so I combined both together into the one show. The concept looked pretty straightforward to me! I didn’t think it was going to be a huge challenge as it meshed pretty clearly in my mind with how it would work. People were skeptical at the odd combination – and it is an odd combination – but in show business you have to be different to be successful, and Celtic Illusions is extremely different.

“Celtic mythology is based on magic as well. We are not doing magic similar to that – I make people appear, disappear and levitate – but the magic adds an element of surprise to the show. Added to the high energy of the dance, it’s a formula for a perfect show of entertainment.” 

For Georgia, it was a slightly different story in how she came to join the Celtic Illusion team.

“I had always just wanted to be a dancer. I knew nothing about magic or illusions, and I hadn’t really seen much magic performed live. Anthony didn’t really tell me what would be involved when I was first approached about joining Celtic Illusions, because there’s so much secrecy around tricks, but I was definitely not prepared for what would be required of me in the show. I had no idea what I was walking into, but I love it.”

Premiering here in Adelaide on Saturday 17th July, Celtic Illusion Reimagined will be the first time Anthony has performed since COVID brought Celtic Illusion’s Canadian tour to an end.

“I’m extremely anxious at the moment. We are constantly being thrown hurdles left right and centre, and it’s been a year and a half since we’ve staged the show. It’s the longest we’ve gone without doing the show, but we are all so excited to get back on stage and make people happy with what we do. That’s what this show does: it brings people joy and happiness, so it’s worth all the stress in the end.”

For Georgia, it will be extra special as it will not only be her first time back on stage in a year and a half, but she will also have the magic of performing in her home town.

“Adelaide will always be home for me, even though I’m based out of Melbourne now. It’s such a beautiful city. Coming home is such a nice feeling and I haven’t been home since the start of the pandemic. It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve been there. I’m really excited to be seeing the refurbished Her Majesty’s Theatre as well and to be able to perform in there. I am a little bit nervous – this will be the first time I’ve performed since we had our seasons canceled last year. There’s a little bit of nerves, but also the love of performing, and when you get there, you get back into the swing of things.”

Celtic Illusion Reimagined will be touring Australia between July and November this year. With over 60 performances booked, the show will not only be performed in major capital cities, but also regional venues, including Mt Gambier, Noarlunga, Renmark, Port Pirie, Whyalla and Port Lincoln. 

Georgia is extremely excited to be taking this new show to so many venues.

“There will be a lot of excitement and definitely a lot of emotion. In the show there are a lot of exciting and very hard-hitting punchy numbers that really get your heart rate up, as well as slower, more lyrical routines. There’s a stunning love duet between Anthony and myself; it’s a beautiful scene.

“The remote locations are often some of the best audiences. They are just so appreciative, and often the loudest, which is amazing. It gets us pumped if we know the audience is enjoying it. It’s always incredible doing the big venues in the big cities, but when you go to the regional towns, and the local theatres, and you meet the people afterwards, they are just incredible.”

Celtic Illusion Reimagined will be at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Saturday 17th July at 7.30pm. Bookings at Bass or via https://www.adelaidefestivalcentre.com.au/events/celtic-illusion/ 

Interview by Ben Stefanoff

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