Saturday, May 2, 2015

"New York Spring Spectacular" - A Very Enjoyable, if Sometimes Over The Top Experience

Reviewed by Judd Hollander

This is not your parent's Radio City Musical Hall Easter Show, or even your older brother's or sister’s. Filled with 21st century technology and brilliantly staged by Warren Carlyle, the New York Spring Spectacular is an unabashed love letter to The Big Apple, offering a boatload of fun while still managing to be a very human and intimate experience.

Somewhere beyond time and space, an angel-in-waiting named Jack (Derek Hough), who has been stuck in limbo for a long, long, long time, finally gets a chance to earn his wings. His assignment: travel to present day New York and help Bernie (Lenny Wolpe), a jovial but aging fellow who gives guided tours of the city, to keep his job. Bernie's company having just been bought by Jenna (Laura Benanti), who plans to take the entire company virtual. Smart, tech savvy, and very, very rich, Jenna is big on the whole virtual reality concept and has even prepared a presentation of what Bernie's tour will look like once she gets through with it - complete with a virtual reality Bernie. While Jenna and her right-hand man Marshall (Jared Grimes) are ready to put Bernie on the unemployment line, Jack convinces her, with a little help from the folks in the audience, to take one of Bernie's tours in order to prove that actual reality is far more enjoyable than the virtual version.

With Bernie in the driver's seat and with a little help from Jack, the audience is treated to multiple New York sites: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Central Park, Broadway - where Jenna waxes lyrical about the idea of making all of Broadway virtual - the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, among others. Each segment filled with guest appearances via video or voice ranging from Donald Trump and Michael Strahan to Tiny Fey and Amy Poehler - the latter two lending their voices to Patience and Fortitude, the lions who guard the entrance to the New York Public Library on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue. Also seen are various sport figures, including Walt Frazier and Mariano Rivera, and of course there are the famous Radio City Rockettes, who take part in multiple song and dance numbers. There's even an aerial ballet of sorts.

As the show works on letting the magic of New York City shine through, and the outcome of Jack's mission never really in doubt, the issue becomes the journey itself and whether getting there is far more than half the fun. Thanks to the excellent recreations of the various locales, the Metropolitan Museum and Central Park being especially well-done, the answer is a resounding "yes"! The show being a wonderful chance for tourists to get an idea of what the city has to offer, while actual New Yorkers can compare their memories of these places to what's on stage and also perhaps consider checking out any of the ones they might not have been to in a while, if ever.

Nicely coupled with the different New York scenes are the various dance numbers, once which include ballroom, tap and an absolutely wonderful homage to "Singin' in the Rain". The Rockettes, clad in everything from elegant evening gowns to rain gear and doing a wonderful job performing in these different styles, as well as letting loose with their trademark high kick line. The Rockettes' costumes designed by fashion icons Diane von Furstenberg, Isaac Mizrahi and Zac Posen, all of whom make video appearances during the course of the show.

If there is one problem with the production, it's that it keeps hitting you over the head with how much there is to see and do in New York City. I'm not one to disagree about that, being a life-long New Yorker and still finding new and different places to check out every day. However all that aside, there is still more than a bit of overkill here and after the third or fourth splashy musical number, one starts to wish for something a bit more quiet to come along and change the tempo of things a bit.

Hough has a great time as Jack, trying to convince Jenna to see the error of her ways while dancing up a storm when circumstances warrant. Though it might have been nice if some back story was provided on his character. Benanti does a great turn as Jenna. No female version of Ebenezer Scrooge or Mr. Potter here, Benanti shows Jenna to be an intelligent and humorous woman. Though one who forgets the importance of human contract and the magic of love in her life. At least she did, until now. Grimes is fun as Marshall, though the character has no real depth, and he's perfectly paired with Hough at points - such as the dance sequence that takes place in Central Park. Wolpe is nicely affable as Bernie, who comes across as one of those "best kept secrets". An unassuming character who's part and parcel to the tapestry that is New York. He also has a fountain of trivia available where the city is concerned and gives one of the longest walking tours in memory, if the actual distance covered between the various stops depicted in the show is any indication.

A great deal of fun and certain to attract folks of all ages, the New York Spring Spectacular certainly has a lot to recommend it and one hopes it will be around for many years to come.

New York Spring Spectacular

Featuring: Andrew “Dr. Ew” Carter (Easter Bunny), Whoopi Goldberg (Voice), Derek Hough (Jack), Lenny Wolpe (Bernie), Laura Benanti (Jenna), Jared Grimes (Marshall), Chelsea Packard (Julie) Emily Rosenfeld/Paige Brady (Emily), Colin Critchley, Grayson Taylor (Steve), Bella Thorne (Voice of Alice), Tina Fey, Amy Poehler (Voice of the Lions), Crista Moore (Isabella), Mathieu Leopold, Sarah Romanowsky (Aerialists), LaVon Fisher-Wilson (Featured Soloists)

Special Appearances by: 50 Cent, Carmelo Anthony, Odell Beckham Jr., Christie Brinkley, Bob Costas, Victor Cruz, Walt Frazier, Johnny Gilbert, Joe Girardi, Heidi Klum, Spike Lee, John Leguizamo, Henrik Lundqvist, Al Michaels, Isaac Mizrahi, Zac Posen, Kelly Ripa, Mariano Rivera, Al Roker, Sam Rosen, Martha Stewart, Ben Stiller, Michael Strahan, Donald Trump, Diane von Furstenburg

The Rockettes: Nicole Baker, Ashli Bear, Samantha Berger, Danielle Betscher, Christina Cichra, Jessie Crouch, KT Wilson Curry, Gabrielle De Re, Tara Dunleavy, Alyssa Epstein, Melinda Farrell, Katelyn Gaffney, Tiffany Griffin, Sarah Grooms, Katie Hamrah, Melissa Hillmer, Lindsay Howe, Candace Jablonski, Kristen Jantzie, Lisa Jantzie, Rebekah Joy Mitchell, Ashley Kasunich, Allyson Kelly, Alissa LaVergne, Mindy Moeller, Danielle Morgan, Kimberly Petros Nassif, Alexis Olson, Amy Love Osgood, Natalie Madison Reid, Traci Reszetylo, Sierra Ring, Karen Ritchie, Taylor Shimko, Hannah Sides, Christine Sienicki, Brittany Paige Snyder, Sarah Staker, Audrey Thelemann, Katie Elizabeth Walker, Brittany Werthmann, Raley Zofko

Ensemble: David Armstrong, Barton Bieber, Nathaniel Braga, Camille Branton, Elyssa Jo Brown, Angela Buccinni, Elizabeth Burton, Marshall Kennedy Carolan, Andrew “Dr. Ew” Carter, Emily Ferranti, Daniela Filippone, LaVon Fisher-Wilson, Taylor Frey, Jessie Green, J’Loni Jones, Nathan Keen, Jonathan M. Kim, Ryan Koss, Mathieu Leopold, Andy Mills, Chelsea Packard, Dylan Pearce, Sarah Romanowsky, JC Schuster, David Scotchford, Monique Smith, Ashley Talluto, Addie Tomlinson, Kamille L. Upshaw, Jessie Walker, Thom Wall, John Walton West, Bruce Winant, Jessica Wu

Scenic Design: Patrick Fahey, Costume Design, ESOSA, Lighting Design: David Agress, Sound Design, Keith Caggiano, Video & Projection Design: Batwin + Robin Productions, Wig Design: Charles G. LaPointe, Puppet Designers/Directors: Matt Acheson, Eric Novak, 3-D Film Animation: Reel FX, Music Supervisor & Lead Conductor: Patrick Vaccariello, Orchestrators: Larry Blank, Brad Dechter, Ned Ginsburg, Simon Hale, Larry Hochman, Michael Starobin, Daniel Troob, Dance Arrangements: John O’Neill, Jim Laev, Daniel Troob; Casting: Testley & Company, Technical Director: Larry Morley, Production Stage Manager: Nancy Pittelman, Executive Producers: Victoria Parker Julie Oh, Original Songs by: Gary Barlow & Eliot Kennedy, Opening Number Choreographed by: Mia Michaels, “Bring It Home” written by March Shaiman and Scott Wittman, Executive Producer: James L. Dolan, Written by Joshua Harmon, 

Produced by Harvey Weinstein, Creative Directors: Diane Paulus & Randy Weiner, Directed and Choreographed by Warren Carlyle

Radio City Music Hall
50th Street and Avenue of the Americas
Tickets: 866-858-0007 or
Closes May 7

Running time: 90 minutes no intermission

No comments: