Review Roundup: NEW YORK SPRING SPECTACULAR Opens at Radio City Music Hall
The brand new, awe-inspiring theatrical New York Spring Spectacular, which is jointly produced by Madison Square Garden Entertainment and Weinstein Live Entertainment, opens tonight, March 26, 2015 and runs through May 3, 2015 at Radio City Music Hall.
New York Spring Spectacular is led by Director and Choreographer Warren Carlyle. Working by his side are Co-Creative Directors Diane Paulus and Randy Weiner, as well as writer Joshua Harmon and choreographer Mia Michaels.
The star power of New York Spring Spectacular includes Tony Award winning actress Laura Benanti as the female lead, Jenna; Emmy Award winning choreographer Derek Hough as the male lead, Jack; Lenny Wolpe as Bernie; Jared Grimes as Marshall and of course, the legendary Rockettes. The production also includes celebrity video cameos by 50 Cent, Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Walt Frazier, John Leguizamo, Al Michaels, Kelly Ripa, Mariano Rivera, Sam Rosen, Carmelo Anthony, Henrik Lundqvist, Martha Stewart and Donald Trump.
In New York Spring Spectacular, Bernie, played by Wolpe, has been giving old-fashioned tours of New York for decades, but his company was just bought by Jenna, played by Benanti, a whip smart techie with plans to fire Bernie and turn his tours into a virtual reality wonderland. Enter Jack, played by Hough, a spirited young man with a secret agenda of his own: If he can help Bernie keep his job, Jack will get an eternal reward. With the assistance of the legendary Rockettes, Bernie takes Jenna -- and the audience -- on the tour of a lifetime, from the Statue of Liberty to Central Park to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. By the last stop on this whirlwind adventure, this group of people will be forever changed, and they will never look at the city the same way again.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: Well, at least the Rockettes get to take the final bow. Those glamorous chorines, with their skyscraper legs flapping away, are a New York institution worth cherishing. So the prospect of a few more weeks of work for the hard-working, high-kicking women in the line makes you want to root for the "New York Spring Spectacular," a lavish new tourist-baiting entertainment being presented at Radio City Music Hall, itself another cherished city institution. When those beautifully poised women with lithe legs and supersize smiles came forward for their final bow, I was as pleased as anyone else to pay them their due. Sadly, little else in this gaudy orgy of civic hype made me smile. On the contrary, this numbingly overblown 90-minute infomercial for the city that never sleeps threatened to send me into a waking coma. Imagine having the Empire State Building stuffed down your gullet, floor by floor, and you'll get some sense of this production's relentless promotional fervor.
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: For a show hell-bent on convincing us that no virtual substitute can equal the authentic Big Apple experience, the New York Spring Spectacular conjures one that could hardly be more synthetic. The perennial kitschy attractions of the traditional Radio City entertainment - that orchestra ascending from the pit, those high-kicking Rockettes drilled to regimental perfection - are all but smothered in an over-produced, under-conceived vehicle that's drowning in flashy bells and whistles but sadly short on genuine magic or joy. The family tourist crowd will flock, but this ADHD sightseeing barrage has way more commercial sponsorship than creative spark.
Scott Foundas, Variety: Radio City's "New York Spring Spectacular" still feels like more of a tourist-trap one-off than a kitsch perennial to rival the music hall's venerable Christmas show. A gaudy valentine to iconic Manhattan landmarks and cultural institutions, by way of a product reel for producer Harvey Weinstein's other house brands, this haphazard revue is decidedly more spectacle than spectacular - one best reserved for the great unwashed who keep "I?NY" T-shirts and coffee mugs flying off the shelves...It doesn't help that the resourceful Benanti is stuck playing a decidedly Y2K-era caricature of a numbers-crunching technocrat, or that Hough, for all his unassailable hoofing, proves a more plasticine stage presence than the several large animatronic puppets that appear throughout the evening. As usual, the most special effects here are the Rockettes themselves, who reliably elevate the proceedings with their high-stepping kicks and geometrically elaborate configurations - a pleasure to behold, regardless of the season.
David Cote, Time Out NY: The tussle between digital ephemera and the analog history and culture that surrounds us takes center stage in this wall-to-wall pop-culture fun ride, which often neatly combines visual dazzlement with old-fashioned hometown pride...Dancers and actors alike are inevitably dwarfed in the cavernous Radio City space, but it doesn't matter; director-choreographer Warren Carlyle keeps the Rockettes doing what they do so well, while the production finds inventive ways to use 3-D animation, jumbo video monitors and other distractions. Let's face it, even for those of us who have been here for years, aren't there some tourist traps worth falling into? Paradoxically, it's a nice way to get out of town.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, New York Post: Radio City Music Hall's "New York Spring Spectacular" is a lot of show - all for something that feels like the most expensive visitors bureau commercial ever made...We're talking remote-controlled kites flying over the orchestra, 3-D projections, dogs parading across the stage and light-up watches for spectators - the last of which are underwhelming since theatergoers tend to keep their hands in their laps rather than wave them like clubbers on Ecstasy. A montage of scenes from famous New York-set movies. A fashion show. Giant animated statues, including a 26-foot Lady Liberty with Whoopi Goldberg's voice, plus other taped celebrity cameos from the likes of Carmelo Anthony, Isaac Mizrahi and Tina Fey...The result is a personality-free product that squanders the glorious Rockettes...At least the elegant Jared Grimes and the lovely, lively Benanti - who shows a flair for improv in a protracted audience-participation bit - pick up some of the slack. Even so, the show needs more of a leg to stand on.
Joe Dziemianowicz, NY Daily News: There are some lavish visuals conjuring landmarks and locales, thanks to state-of-the-art effects. Which is ironic, since the villain of the knuckleheaded story threaded through the 90-minute commercial is a technology-obsessed Scrooge in a red dress named Jenna (Tony winner Laura Benanti, who's in good voice but pushes too hard). Jenna's made billions in virtual reality and doesn't get that NYC is meant to be experienced live and in person.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: The show is best when director and choreographer Warren Carlyle, a Tony-winner, lets Benanti be her funny best and when the Rocketts are let out. There's a nicely done homage to Fashion Week and a glorious moment when all the Rockettes line up behind Jenna as she waltzes with Hough.
Steven Suskin, Huffington Post: Happily, the creators have imported a key player: Broadway's own Laura Benanti. Benanti--a Tony Award-winner for Gypsy, with an increasing television presence--sparkles as much as all that synchronized robotic LED pixel technology; she even scores when they place her in the middle of the Rockettes kick line. The big fan draw here, though, is not Benanti; it is "Dancing with the Stars" choreographer/dancer Derek Hough. Mr. Hough is clearly an audience favorite, if unknown to this viewer, but he turns out to be an engaging performer.