BWW Review: RADIO CITY CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR Dazzles Again for Its 84th Season
On November 16th 2017, opening night of this year's Radio City Christmas Spectacular, the New York City tradition once again treated an excited and cheering audience to a joyous evening of music, dance, technological magic, and of course the inimitable 36-member precision dance team, the Rockettes. This year the evening began with an enchanting surprise courtesy of the Garden of Dreams Foundation, the charity that helps children facing obstacles. Ten-year-old Zoe Nguyen, a twin whose life hung in the balance when she and her sister were born prematurely, is now an accomplished violinist. She played "O Holy Night" flawlessly with poise beyond her years, and received a well-deserved standing ovation.
After that the show became a 90-minute non-stop delight as the Rockettes tapped and twirled and high kicked through number after number. Kudos to the wardrobe crew and dressers for dealing backstage with the Rockettes' eight costume changes, some with a mere 78 seconds to execute!
First up for the Rockettes was "Santa's Reindeer", a dance that evolved into a 3D projection for which we all wore special glasses in order to see Santa and his reindeer flying to NYC. The exuberant squeals of the younger members of the audience during this sequence added to the growing sense of cheer among all of us.
For "The Twelve Days of Christmas", according to a program note, the Rockettes' custom tap shoes are each fitted with microphones so that every tap can be heard throughout the huge hall. The Rockettes truly make music with their feet!
A hilarious spoof of the "The Nutcracker", complete with dancers costumed as bears plus an admirably proficient young dancer on pointe as Clara, was a definite crowd pleaser. Three dancers alternate in the role of Clara: Emerson Tate Alexander, Josabella Morton, and Rachel Quiner. On opening night, JosaBella Morton was superb!
Of the rest of the offerings, the iconic "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" remains my favorite - especially the legendary "soldier fall". Here's a link to how it's done: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=24&v=JxhPhSrCQPc
I have to admit that I do also enjoy the "Living Nativity", although this year's performance with live sheep, camels, and a donkey may be the last to feature real animals. That's because the Christian Outreach Division of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) sent a letter to the executive chair of the Madison Square Garden Company urging the show to use animal statues instead. Whether or not MSG will eventually comply remains to be seen.
The Spectacular always has a story line, albeit a thin one. This year's version involves two brothers, portrayed on opening night by Robert Montano as Patrick and Jaden Waldman as Ben. The boys need to buy a gift for their sister but don't have enough money. They meet Santa Claus, played for the 30th (!) year in a row by Charles Edward Hall. Finally even Patrick, the 14-year-old skeptic, becomes a believer after a trip to the North Pole that serves as an excuse for the Rockettes to perform the adorable "Rag Dolls" sequence. Hall is the author of a book, "Santa Claus Is for Real: A True Christmas Fable About the Magic of Believing".
As we left the theater, "snow" was falling outside the entrance - a special effect that was utterly charming, and the perfect way to usher in the holiday celebrations to come. I did, though, watch my step because the "snowflakes" made the sidewalk slippery. I was reminded of my years dancing on pointe in the Snow scene in "The Nutcracker" when the possibility of slipping was all too real!
Overall, the evening was a welcome respite from the turmoil of today's world. If you're in NYC from now until the end of the run on January 1st 2018, don't miss the chance to see the show.
Photo courtesy of MSG Entertainment