Radio City Music Hall’s Decked Out for the Holidays! The Rockettes Are High-Kicking and Santa’s Arriving from the North Pole
By: Ellis Nassour
The Showplace of the Nation, Radio City Music Hall really knows how to put a kick into the holiday season with its Christmas Spectacular. Have you been naughty or nice? Hopefully, the latter, but it doesn’t matter because this 86th Edition, running through December 31, will have you imbibing the holiday spirit. In fact, there’s no better place to lift spirits and create lasting family memories than with this cherished holiday tradition. It’s estimated that since its inception, the Christmas Spectacular has been seen by 74 million.
The show is one of New York’s most popular attractions right up there with quintessential sites such as the Statue of Liberty, Empire State and Chrysler Buildings, Rockefeller Center, Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan and MoMA museums, and the U.N. The two standout stars are the world famous Rockettes, the glamorous 36-strong troupe who set the standard for challenging and innovative precision dance; the Living Nativity, jolly ole Saint Nick, and so much more.
You’ll get swept away as soon as you enter the Art Deco lobby where a jaw-dropping 35′ mobile tree made up of 6,000 Swarovski crystals greets you. You can even have your photo taken with Santa and a Rockette [however, not for free; there’s a $35 charge – a bit much for a show that has big-time corporate sponsorship. And, sadly, "No! you can’t use your own camera!"].
The 2014 edition, directed and choreographed by former Rockette Julie Branam, is more airborne than ever [sometimes, with 3-D, dizzyingly] with Santa on a journey soaring over Manhattan in his reindeer-drawn sleigh through a blizzard to the whimsical world of his North Pole workshops with elves and Mrs. Claus; and special effects such as trains running across the golden arches. Branam is adding sparkle to many of the most cherished production numbers that have been passed down over the years.
This fast-paced [90-minutes, no intermission, and starts on time] edition has the world’s largest flying indoor LED screen, new routines and surprises, songs and carols, razzle-dazzle costumes, 3-D and cutting edge digital projection alongside beloved numbers that have been tradition since 1933: "The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers," the high-energy tap-infused "The 12 Days of Christmas," the famed and hilarious dance of the department store toys with a most-talented young ballerina; and ice-skaters in Central Park.
In "New York at Christmas," the Rockettes take audiences on a whirlwind Manhattan holiday tour aboard a Gray Line double-decker bus that culminates in an amazingly-quick change into dazzling frocks and a spectacular Times Square fireworks display. There’s also an interactive number that will delight the youngsters, "Santa’s Video Game," which is mixed with
3-D and the beloved high-kicking gals.
The high-tech Rockettes number, "Snow," which debuted last season and had audiences spellbound as giant snowflakes were propelled into and soared over audiences. And you don’t have to wish for a white Christmas because you’ll have one right there. "Let It Snow" let it snow, and it does.
The "reason for the season," the beautifully-stage Living Nativity, with spectacular costumes and live animals, has been enhanced so that Bethlehem’s starry-night sky envelopes the audience.
The Rockette ensemble is always growing, and this year one of the "newbies" is Brooke Averi, a fresh-faced gal-next-door from California. Brooke took a break from the intense rehearsal schedule — from September to October, 10 A.M. – 6 P.M., six times a week — and her studies at Marymount College to discuss fulfilling a lifelong dream of being a part of the legendary troupe.
"It’s all so amazing that I still can’t believe I’m in the corps," say Brooke. " I can’t believe how lucky I am. It doesn’t take long before you’re part of a supportive family. After my first performances, all I heard was, ‘You did it!’ They watch your back."
It’s sort of like that great line from the classic film 42nd Street: You go out onstage a youngster, but you come back a star. Brooke proudly informs, "I’m always sixth in from the left."
The ladies do more than dance. Even though there are pre-recorded music tracks, "we’re always singing live to the music," states Brooke. The quick changes – and some are more than quick [done right onstage] – took some getting used to. "Here, again," she says, "we have incredible support. There’s one wardrobe dresser for every three Rockettes."
The holiday season is a hard days and nights’ work, with as many as 11 shows weekends for the two casts as we head closer to Christmas. RCMH goes to some lengths to make Christmas eve and day special. Even though the Rockettes and cast members don’t have much time to spend with family and friends, there’ll be some cheer.
"We bring the holidays backstage," points out Branam. "It’s festive. We have decorations, a tree, and play Secret Santa. Christmas Day we have a dinner to which we can bring our families. That’s very special and makes a huge difference."
Brooke explains how important audiences are. "They come here with their families to get into joy of the holidays. It’s as much a cherished tradition to them as it is to me – growing up, always wanting to be a Rockette. You can be exhausted or having a bad day, but you go out and hear the applause and cheers and the adrenaline begins to pump. It brightens your day as much, hopefully, as we’re brightening theirs."
Entertainment at RCMH begins a quarter hour before showtime when the mighty Wurlitzer organs roll out with dueling organists for a most entertaining concert of holiday favorites.
Support Madison Square Garden’s Garden of Dreams Foundation by making the holidays brighter for the less fortunate with the donation of unwrapped toys. Visit gardenofdreamsfoundation.org to learn more.
Tickets for the Christmas Spectacular, presented by Chase, are $72 – $139, with VIP Elite packages at $401 and $482 which include a stockingful of treats (premium seat, with private entrance and coincerge, pre-show buffet with beverages, photo opt with Santa and the Rockettes). They’re available at the Music Hall box office, online at www.radiocitychristmas.com and Ticketmaster.com, or by calling (866) 858-0007 [service fees apply].