Yes, it’s (already) that time of the year again, folks! We haven’t even carved the Thanksgiving turkey yet, but that doesn’t stop those fabulous Rockettes from donning a sparkling outfit or two and bringing us their annual Christmas Spectacular once again. No siree bub!
Last night, I found myself in the vast Radio City Music Hall, sat across the aisle from an 8-year old boy and how I wished I could have been in his shoes for the night. Childhood should be brimming with awe, wonder and magic, and for this little theatre-goer, last night’s entertainment was delivering that by the glittering bucket-load. Seeing a child’s face light up as Santa enters the room and seeing his eyes beam as three dozen Santas follow (a group of gender-bending, disguised Rockettes) and seeing those same eyes nearly pop out of his head in amazement as those present are joined by an army of tightly choreographed Santas (by way of the huge LED backdrop) is simply priceless. Oh to be young again.
Let’s make no mistake about it, this is the obligatory festive treat for the children of New York and those visiting. It’s not, on the other hand, a must for all of us hardened musical theatre fans. There isn’t much of a narrative to follow, rather Santa acts as a sort of jolly compère to shoe in those iconic dance numbers, some of which have probably been seen every year since 1933. The Sugarplum Fairy (now a giant teddy bear with diva aspirations) and The Nutcracker are still traditional favourites, whilst the modern child demands a theme-park style 3D projected movie (glasses provided) of Santa’s sleigh and reindeer hurtling around the famous sights of Manhattan or remote-controlled floating snowflake beach-balls. Admittedly, there was also one or two moments when my own jaw dropped in disbelief – mainly with the inclusion of real sheep, camels and a donkey on the stage. They were, of course, main attractions in the Nativity scene, which sadly seemed a little out of place amongst the bombarding commercial aspects of Christmas. Where do those animals go between shows, I wonder? Do they take a gentle stroll down 5th Avenue?
The Rockettes, as ever, remain the epitome of dance troupe perfection and dazzle in their elaborate costumes, beautifully designed by Gregg Barnes, Frank Krenz and Martin Pakledinaz. My date for the evening couldn’t help but notice though how little they reflect the multi-racial city they call home with just two or three girls of colour. Yes, this really is a White Christmas, folks. But racial politics aside – and goodness knows, we have had more than our fair share of that recently – if you can embrace the child within, you can embrace the Christmas Spectacular.
Grab your kids or your young relatives and treat them to this all-singing, all-dancing, multi-media-spewing Winter Wonderland, which will no doubt remain with them for years and years to come.
(Photo by Dan Niver)