Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Radio City Christmas Spectacular - The Perfect Way to Ring in the Holiday Season

By Judd Hollander
Photo by MSG Entertainment

As constant as the changing of the seasons is the annual appearance of the Christmas Spectacular at New York's Radio City Musical Hall, which has been bringing delight to audiences for more than 85 years. Seamlessly combining the secular and the religious, and newer musical numbers with old favorites, the show is an unabashed treat for all ages. The production offering snow, Santa Claus, Christmas carols and of course, those high kicking, toe tapping Radio City Rockettes.

The entire show is basically a combination Christmas pageant/immersive experience. It starting the moment one enters the massive Music Hall performance space to be greeted by a cacophony of snowflakes projected on the ceiling and walls. No two of them seeming to be alike (and yes, I looked). Just as each snowflake is different from the next, a perfect Christmas gift for one person will not be a perfect fit for someone else. Something eight year-old Ben and his older brother Patrick find out while looking for such a present for their sister. The brothers getting some help with their quest from the big guy in the red suit. A process which also reintroduces the magic of Christmas to the rather cynical Patrick. A magic which, as a song makes clear, is "closer than you know". 

Santa also serves as the unofficial narrator/guide through most of the proceedings. Coming out at the beginning and interacting with the crowd before taking them on an eye popping sleigh ride from his North Pole workshop straight to Radio City. Said journey accomplished though some enjoyable projections, the use of 3-D glasses previously distributed to the audience and some fantastical sets that are guaranteed to thrill every child present, while also stirring the youngster that dwells in every adult's heart. Though to be honest, I couldn't help thinking how some of the huge snowflakes, which at one point descend on wires from the top of the stage, and the method in which Santa took Ben and Patrick on a trip to his workshop would make for a great episode of Doctor Who.

In an extremely well-done number, Santa answers a question children have pondered down through the generations - and one which parents have continually struggled to answer. Namely, how can every person dressed in a Santa suit - be they in a department store or ringing a bell on a street corner - actually be the one and only? The answer, one which eventually involves a stage full of dancing Kris Kringles, is wonderfully executed and choreographed. The early moments of the numbers containing just a bit of otherworldliness to call to mind the classic "Elephants on Parade" number from Dumbo.

When Santa wasn't involved in the various goings on, or serving as a bridge to the different scenes and songs, it was the Rockettes' turn to shine; and shine they did. Be they dressed up as rag dolls (in a number that had its genesis in the 1940 Christmas show), reindeer, Christmas ornaments, or NYC tourists - complete with matching sweaters for the latter - their dancing was always in perfect synchronization and magnificent to watch. Some of their more enjoyable numbers included a wonderful rendition of "The Twelve Days of Christmas"; a song about Christmas in New York City - and featuring a double-decker bus; and the absolutely show-stopping "March of the Wooden Soldiers" sequence, which has to be seen to be believed. The "Soldiers" number was first introduced in 1933 and there's a reason it's become a perennial favorite. The chorographic work is superb, with the entire line of Rockettes/soldiers moving in a way so it appears the performers seem almost flat as they turn, break apart and come back together. This all leading to a most fantastic finish.

Another particularly striking sequence that also had its roots in the past was a scene from "The Nutcracker", featuring a little girl named Clara and some rather large dancing bears. The bears being of the Russian, Panda and Teddy varieties.

One thing evident throughout was how transfixed the children in the audience were with what was happening on stage. The "Wooden Soldiers" and "Rag Doll" numbers being two of their particular favorites. Unfortunately some of the adults were far too intent on capturing moments of the show on their various hand held devices to really enjoy the experience as it was unfolding.

The evening's crowning moment, notable for its relative simplicity after all that had come before, was the quiet beauty the of "The Living Nativity" sequence. The scene including camels, sheep and, like everything else, brought off without a hitch and to great effect.

The technical credits were excellent down the line. Each one showing the care going into the production to make it all seem fresh and new, no matter how many years prior some of the sequences presented, or variations thereof, had actually been done before.

Whether you've seen The Radio City Christmas Spectacular many times previously or if this is your first go round, one thing is clear. The show is a heart-warming treat which should be on all Yuletide lover's "must-see" lists each and every Christmas season.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Featuring: Charles Edward Hall (Santa Claus), Alexandra Hoffman, Kayla Mak, Rachel Quiner (Clara), Jack Broderick, Jack Mastrianni, Sawyer Nunes (Patrick), Jad Grey, Avery Noble, Jorge Vega (Ben), John Paul Almon (Santa Standby), Annie Fitch, AnnMarie Powers (Mrs. Claus), Kasey J. Hughes (Santa Understudy)

Skaters: Maxim Fomin & Svetlana Butova, Andrey Baka & Victoriya Glichenko.

Ronald Lee Clark, Bradley Glenn Galey, Misty Irwin, Jonathan M. Kim, Zachary Blu Miller, Sebastian Saraceno, Josh Walker, Kristin Xettlemoyer

Jordanna H. James, Jason Justin Perez

Jackie Aitken, Nicole Baker, Lori Barber, Samantha Beary Burns, Samantha Berger, Danielle Betscher, Tiffany Billings, Bethany Blanchard, Torrie Bogda, Rachel Borgman, Bailey Callahan, Mary Cavett, Jennifer Calvin, Sierra Ring Collins, Jessie Crouch, Jessica Molly Davison, Tara Donleavy, Teneise Ellis, Alyssa Epstein, Melinda Farrell, Katelyn Gaffney, Eleni Gavalas, Lauren Gibbs, Kari Gregg, Tiffany Griffin, Sarah Grooms, Katie Hamrah, Christina Hedrick, Nikki Hester, Danni Heverin, Melissa Hillmer, Sara Michelle Hoenes, Sophie Rose Holloway, Lindsay Howe, Candace Jablonski, Laura Jakowenko, Alison Jantzie, Kristin Jantzie, Lisa Jantzie, Sarah Lin Johnson, Ashley Kasunich, Allyson Kelly, Heather Langham, Alissa LaVergne, Maranda LeBar, Alyssa Lemons, Megan Levinson, Alicia Lundgren, Amanda McCormick, Mindy Moeller, Danielle Morgan, Kimberly Petros Nassif, Jessica Palu, Stacy Paydo, Phoebe Pearl, Thrersa Pelicata, Elizabeth Peterson, Logan Reginato Prince, Natalie Madison Reid, Lauren Ella Renck, Traci Reszetylo, Joanna Richardson, Karen Ritchie, Sagan Rose, Courtney Rottenberger, Tori Schelling, Nicole Schuman, Taylor Shimko, Hannah Sides, Christine Sienicki, Alina Silver, Kristen Grace Smith, Brittany Paige Snyder, Elizabeth Sousek, Audrey Thelemann, Katie Elizabeth Walker, Sarah Staker Wenstrom, Brittany Werthmann, Corey Whalen, Raley Zofko.

Rockettes Swings:

Jennifer Calvin, Jessie Crouch, Melinda Farrell, Stacy Paydo, Traci Reszetylo, Nichole Schuman, Hannah Sides, Katie Elizabeth Walker.

The Dancers:

Alex Aquilino, Jennifer Abuin, Devin Aubin, Brittany Bean, Karolina Blonski-Heflin, Bella Calafiua, Ron Christopher, Adam DiLoreto, Lindsey Fletcher, Drew Heflin, Haley Hellman-Genry, Nina Hudson, Sonia Jean, Justin Keats, Tanner Lane, Stephanie Lo, Chase Madigan, Amanda Mondoro, Antuan Raimone, Olivia Sharber, Demetrius K. Shields, Kelli Shimada, Brian Slaman, Shane Sitely, Paul Vicars, Jessica Walker, Matthew Winnegge, Camille Workman.

Lauren Cannon, Daniela Filippone, Marqui Jenn, Michael McArthur, Dylan Pearce, Cody D. Smith, Tyler Stickel, Samantha Zuidema-Wilhem.

The Singers:
Breanna Bartley, Eddie Egan, Alexandra Fassler, Annie Fitch, April Holloway, Joey Khoury, Thaddeus Pearson, AnnMarie Powers, Nathan Andrew Riley, Clinton Roane, Andrew Van Allsburg, Amy Lynn Zanetto.

Chris Gleim, Clarissa Grace, Kasey J. Hughes, Andrea Rodriguez.

Lighting Designer: David Agrees
Scenic Designer: Patrick Fahey, 8 hangs High Inc.
Sound Designer: SCK Sound Design
Christmas Production Manager: Beth Zitzman
Costume Design: Gregg Barnes, Frank Krenz, Martin Pakledinaz
Production Stage Manager: Kathy J. Hoovler
Production Managers: Julie Mason Groob. Michael Donaghy
Director, Rockettes Creative: Karen Keeler
Assistant Choreographers: Marqui Jenn, Traci Reszetylo, Hannah Sides, Samantha Zuidema-Wilhelm
Associate Conductors: Edward G. Robinson, Ethyl Will
Associate Costume Designer: Erin Elizabeth Murphy
Santa Flies to New York 3D: Synthespian Studios
Technical Director: Larry Morley
Musical Director and Principal Choreographer: Kevin Stites
Writer/Lyricist: Mark Waldrop
LED Video and Projection Mapping Design: Batwin & Robin Productions
Director and Chorographer: Julie Barman

Radio City Music Hall

1260 Avenue of the Americas (between 50th and 51st Streets)
Tickets: 1-866-858-0007 or www.RadioCityChristmas.com
Running Time: 90 Minutes, No Intermission

Closes: January 3, 2016

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