The Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring The Rockettes is an annual musical holiday stage show presented at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The show features over 140 performers, lavish sets and costumes and an original musical score that combines singing, dancing and humor with traditional scenes in spectacular stage settings. The star performers are the women's precision dance troupe known as the Rockettes. Since the first version was presented in 1933, the show has become a New York Christmas tradition seen by more than a million visitors a year, even after the 6,000 seat theatre stopped showing movies in 1979 after which the show, originally a 30-minute filler between movie showings, was expanded to its' current 90-minute format. Since 2007, the show has aired - first as a stand-alone special on NBC, and as recently as 2009, as a fund-raising special for public television stations in the USA.
In 2007, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Christmas show, an entirely new edition of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular was updated, designed and choreographed under the direction of Linda Haberman. For a brief time it was one of the few shows playing in New York in December, 2007, during a strike which closed most Broadway theaters. This edition of the show was filmed first for NBC and was hosted by Today show hosts Matt Laurer and Meredeth Vierra, and has been released on DVD by Time Life Entertainment on November 4, 2008. The DVD features the complete 75th Celebration edition of the show. A two disc version also includes a behind-the-scenes documentary called Diamond at the Rock.
The Christmas Spectacular begins with the Rockettes performing a new opening number called "Ring Out Those Bells". Before the song is over, Santa Claus appears on stage and they lift off into the air. Now the action shifts to a 3-D film where the audience (wearing special glasses) sees Santa flying to New York City from the North Pole in his magic sleigh. Once he arrives, he flies in his sleigh around some of New York City's landmarks including the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. Finally Santa heads towards the Radio City Music Hall, for his annual visit.
Once Santa arrives at the Music Hall, the movie ends and the show really begins. Santa appears on stage and acts as host. His introduces the Rockettes who perform a rock-and-dance version of "The Twelve Days of Christmas". Santa then announces "Every little girl's dream", which is a scene from The Nutcracker. A little girl dreams about opening her presents on Christmas Day, and dances with the six-foot tall toy bears and rabbits that she finds in the unwrapped boxes.
This is followed by one of the show's original numbers from 1933, "The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers", again performed by the Rockettes. The toy soldier costumes worn in the act are still of the same design created in 1933 by Vincente Minelli. Each costume is made for the individual dancer. The next scene finds the Rockettes in a big double decker tour bus in front of a set of Radio City. They travel all over New York on the bus singing "New York at Christmas". The bus arrives at Times Square where the Rockettes finish their dance with on-stage fireworks.
Two boys, Ben and Patrick, now come up to Santa on a corner in Times Square. Ben asks Santa for help finding a present for their sister, but Patrick claims that the old man isn't Santa. Santa tries to convince Patrick that he is the real thing with the numbers "I See Santas Everywhere" and "Magic is There". Then the boys and Santa magically fly off in a blizzard to the North Pole, where upon arrival, Santa tells Ben and Patrick to go find a gift in his warehouse. He says "When it's really the perfect present, you don't find the gift... the gift finds you." Then the Rockettes perform the number "Ragdolls". After this number, Ben and Patrick magically return to Times Square where Patrick admits that he does believe in Santa and sings a reprise of "Magic is There".
The next segment features a short video history of Radio City Music Hall and the Rockettes, before going into the show stopping number "Let Christmas Shine". The stage glows in silver and the Rockettes appear in costumes decked with Swarovski Crystals. This is followed by another of the show's original scenes, "The Living Nativity." Special effects and a pageant including live camels and sheep dramatize the birth of Christ. There is a new narration by Ben and Patrick, reading to their sister, and a choral number, "One Solitary Life". The show closes with a singing of "Joy to the World" accompanied by the Music Hall's Mighty Wurlitzer Organ before the cast takes their bows to a reprise of "Let Christmas Shine".
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The signature dance team of this annual spectacular are The Rockettes, founded in St. Louis, Missouri by Russell Markert in 1925, and originally performed as the "Missouri Rockets." Markert had been inspired by the John Tiller Girls in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1922, and was convinced that "If I ever got a chance to get a group of American girls who would be taller and have longer legs and could do really complicated tap routines and eye-high kicks... they'd knock your socks off!" The group was brought to New York City by Samuel Roxy Rothafel to perform at his Roxy Theatre and renamed the "Roxyettes." When Rothafell left the Roxy Theatre to open Radio City Music Hall, the dance troupe followed and later became known as the Rockettes, and have performed since opening night at Radio City Music Hall in 1932.
Currently, as of 2010, there are a total of over 200 members of the Rockettes, whose minimum height is 5' 6" and maximum height is 5' 10.5". With as many as two shows a day as part of a National Tour that plays large sports arenas and theatres outside New York during the holiday season, and five shows a day at Radio City Music Hall, a maximum of 36 members perform at one time during the shows.
- Produced by MSG Entertainment
- Conceived, directed and choreographed by Linda Haberman
- Composer/Conductor - Mark Hummel
- Lyricist - Mark Waldrop
- Scenic designer - Patrick Fahey
- Costume designer - Frank Krenz
- Special effects - Batwin & Robin Productions
- Santa Claus performed by Charles Edward Hall
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