BWW Review: NEW YORK SPECTACULAR Starring the Rockettes
The Radio City Rockettes star in the new summer show at the Radio City Music Hall, "New York Spectacular," but don't expect the traditional razor precision ensemble work that you may be accustomed to seeing. This new show has the personalized stamp of popular So You Think You Can Dance choreographer Mia Michaels, who is also credited as the director.
Fans of Michaels' signature contemporary dance style will find a lot to like in this production: from The Rockettes gesticulating and grooving to her edgy vibe, to the wildly talented male ensemble that turn, jump, and twitch out to her stylized dance vocabulary.
The simple story by Douglas Carter Beane follows the exploits of siblings Jacob (Vincent Crocilla) and Emily (Jenna Ortega at the June 23rd performance) who get separated from their parents (Kacie Sheik and Danny Gardner) while visiting New York City. It's this paper-thin plot that allows the kids to stumble upon many of Manhattan's landmarks that give way to a plethora of production numbers. Thanks to cutting edge state-of-the-art technology and clever puppetry, famous paintings and statues come to life to help the children along their way. Especially impressive are a pair of "rapping" lions (voices of Everett Bradley and Daniel J. Watts) who guard the New York Public Library and a wise-cracking Wall Street bull (Jeff Pew).
The sets by Patrick Fahey and the video and projections by Moment Factory are stunning and provide non-stop movement throughout the show. They've combined a mixture of animation, 3-D elements, and live-action footage that are truly remarkable. The reveal of Grand Central Station is awe-inspiring, and the optical journey from the bottom of the Empire State building to the top is breathtaking.
The dominant kid-friendly storyline at times gets tiresome. While both children are engaging, many of their scenes are gobbled up by the sheer vastness of the stage. In turn, the pacing suffers and you're left eagerly awaiting the next big Rockette production number. After ambitious earlier numbers such as "Welcome to New York" and "Money, Money," the show gains it real momentum at the halfway mark.
After the kids hop around the city, visiting the likes of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Central Park, they finally arrive at Times Square. The show really picks up steam here with a jubilant production number to "42nd Street." The statue of George M. Cohan (Danny Gardner in a dual role) comes to life and joins The Rockettes in a colorful and lively tap routine. The number then segues into the classic, "Give My Regards to Broadway" which gives Gardner the chance to exhibit his expert tap dancing skills. He also gives the show a shot of Broadway pizzazz and even dances with the kids atop the ruby-red stairs of the TKTS booth.
Next up is an opulent fashion production number that's performed to Madonna's "Vogue." The Rockettes get a break from dancing and instead strut the catwalk wearing some of the best costumes of the evening designed by Emilio Sosa (Esosa). The dynamic male ensemble frames the runway with hand-held lights and then "Vogue-Out" on their own in a fierce and bodacious dance sequence.
By the end of the show the children have found their parents at the Statue of Liberty and the show wraps up with a splashy finale that features the songs "One," "Empire State of Mind," "First Imagination," and "New York, New York. "
While the attempt to update the classic Rockette style is admirable, purists may be bewildered by the contemporary look. The new material doesn't always mix well with the precision type dancing we are used to seeing. However, if you're game for an updated look and feel, there are still plenty of Great Performances and much spectacle to be enjoyed in the "New York Spectacular."
Photo courtesy: MSG Entertainment