Christmas Spectacular – Behind the Curtains
The annual Radio City Christmas Spectacular is as iconic to New York City’s holiday season as the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree. Metaphorically, the Rockettes are the angel atop the Christmas Spectacular tree. The precision dance troupe is known for their Radio City Christmas Spectacular performance. Filled with vicious leg-kick numbers, fun costumes, and point accuracy, the Rockettes’ performance is the epicenter of the show. The Christmas Spectacular is 90 minutes long and includes more than 140 performers. Narrated by Santa (how festive), Radio City Christmas Spectacular combines new technological innovations with original scores and numbers.
This is very important to the iconic nature of the Christmas Spectacular. Though the show began in the 1930’s, it has not drastically changed over the years. Some might call that boring or unimaginative. The same stiff routines or frilly festivity. What those critics are missing is mid-1900’s Big Apple nostalgia. The bustle, the sophistication, the drama, the shows. On one stage, Radio City Music Hall creates a snow globe of Christmas from eighty years ago. Audiences can marvel at the glamour and feel the excitement similar to the heartbeat of New York. The show is a spectacle of past and present. Though Christmas Spectacular has definitely updated aspects since the opening, the general theme aligns with a traditional take in the middle of New York City.
The Rockettes’ “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” and “The Living Nativity” are two routines that have been in every Christmas Spectacular. That in itself demonstrates the iconic, traditional lean towards Radio City Music Hall’s origins. In addition, it points to the holiday performance’s deep roots in the city as a benchmark for the winter season. Similar to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, New York would be different without the candy-cane costumes and high-kick lines.
Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular is one of only a few shows that kept playing during the strike that hit Broadway theaters in December 2007. In addition, New York Spectacular is now a spring show that balances out the winter festivity of Christmas Spectacular. After varying changes and tweaks to the show, the current line up includes more original songs than in years past. However, a newer subplot now takes order about two boys searching for a Christmas gift for their younger sister. This in itself demonstrates that the show is not above change, but the directors certainly try to keep the original essence in mind.
The show’s grandiosity does not simply hint at the many audience members throughout the years.* Christmas Spectacular takes the grandest stage for more than high attendance. The Rockettes, separated into two companies, comprise of 80 dancers alone. Furthermore, the dancers usually practice for up to six hours a day for six days a week leading up to Christmas Spectacular. Their athleticism is no joke, and behind the festive outfits, these women are incredibly rare talents.
In addition to all the other cast members and musicians, the production effort behind Christmas Spectacular is enormous. New technological additions to the show in recent years have added 3-D effects for the audience. 60,000 pounds of props round out the glorious set design. Some of the costumes are what represent Christmas Spectacular, such as the toy soldier outfits that accompany a fantastic “domino-effect” routine.
Radio City Music Hall has evolved beautifully over the years. Originally “a movie and a show” venue, it is now a hub for events ranging from “Adele: Live in New York City” to the famous Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular. Radio City Music Hall continues to blossom. Once close to shutting down, the venue and its elegance within has victoriously surged forward, changing with the times. 6th Avenue wouldn’t quite be the same without “Radio City Music Hall” in big, neon lettering on the street corner. It is one block from Rockefeller Center and close to Times Square, making the venue a Manhattan landmark in the heart of the hustle.
*Approximately one million audience members will see Christmas Spectacular during its annual six-week run.