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Radio City Christmas Spectacular Holiday Dance Performance Starring the Rockettes Wearing Danskin Tights and LaDuca Shoes - Dress Rehearsal
Presented by JP Morgan Chase
With The Mighty Wurlitzer Organ: George Wesner
and Fred Davies, Organists
At Radio City Music Hall
Avenue of the Americas at West 51st Street
Director and Choreographer: John Dietrich
Executive Producer: John Bonnani
Production Designers: Michael Hotopp and Charles Lisanby
Choreography: John Dietrich and Robert Longbottom
Production Stage Manager: Kathy J. Hoovler
Vocal Arrangements: David Chase
Costumes: Gregg Barnes and Frank Spencer
Sound Design: Dan Gerhard
Producer: Jill DeForte
Asst. Choreographers: Cheryl Hebert Cutlip and Amy Krawek
Music Direction: Grant Sturiale
Lighting Design: Ken Billington and Jason Kantrowitz
Scenic Design: Bill Hoffman and Mark Solan
Associate Producer: Kathleen O'Leary
Asst. Director: Tim Santos
The Mighty Wurlitzer Organ; Overture; Santa's Magical Journey in 3-D; Santa's Gonna Rock and Roll; The Nutcracker: A Little Girl's Dream; The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers; Here Comes Santa Claus; White Christmas in New York; Ice Skating in the Plaza; The North Pole; Santa's Toy Workshop; and The Living Nativity.
Cast: Charles Edward Hall as Narrator and as Santa Claus; A Collection of actor/dancer/singers as Mrs. Claus, Clara, Skaters, and Elves (6).
The Rockettes: In 1925, the first Rockettes made their debut in St. Louis and were called by their creator, Russell Markert, "The Missouri Rockets". This 16 woman ensemble grew into a 36 member kick line. All across America, hundreds of women audition to be a Rockette, and, so far, over 3,000 women, with requisite skills in tap, jazz, and ballet have joined these ranks. New to the Rockette world are two new education programs, called The Rockette Experience and The Rockette Summer Intensive, both affiliated with Danskin and Broadway Dance Center. A Dancer, age 10 or older, may take a Radio City Stage Door Tour with a Rockette, followed by a three-hour Rockette Repertoire Workshop in The Rockette Experience. In the Summer Intensive, hosted in NY, CA, PA, and TX, dance students intensively study with Rockettes and their Choreographer and also have a performance opportunity. (Program Notes). Rockettes wear Danskin tights and LaDuca Shoes, created by Phil LaDuca.
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
November 2, 2004
It had been years since I saw the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, starring The Rockettes, and I had almost forgotten how magical this experience is, not only for children, but also for adults. Radio City is a cavernous art deco theatre, restored recently, top to bottom, just as it was at its opening in 1932. The enormous ceilings, brass entrances and ornamentations, great stage, video-film effects, outsized sound system, and renowned Wurlitzer Organ (which can be played at both ends of the theatre, as the organs appear and disappear into the walls), the walkways for characters and Rockettes to enter from rear orchestra to the stage, the live animals for The Living Nativity, such as donkeys and camels, and the actual ice skating rink that rises and lowers below the orchestra are all magical elements that help to create an evening that one immediately wants to repeat year after year, and even perhaps several times each Fall/Winter Season.
George Wesner and Fred Davies are master organists, and the Pre-Show of Christmas favorites, such as Santa Claus is Coming to Town and Deck the Halls, helped to get this eclectic audience of multi-aged enthusiasts even more engaged in Holiday mood at this early November date. The Overture, as well, introduced some of the themes of the evening, such as The Nutcracker and White Christmas. The 3-D Journey was enhanced with special sunglasses attached to the programs. The 3-D film sped across Manhattan from the Statue of Liberty to Radio City Music Hall. The ever present notion of Santa Claus was realized in the next scene, as Santa danced with The Rockettes in rollicking, rocking and rolling. The Rockettes, as multiple Santas, with the help of a large rear mirror, were most entertaining, even though we had not yet glimpsed the famous legs.
The Nutcracker scene is quite different from The Nutcracker Ballet, with visions of Teddy Bears instead of Sugar Plums, but these 32 Teddies are Rockettes; again, legs covered, but adorable and athletic, as they hold hand mirrors and dance as divine divas. Large presents open and open, as young Clara dances passages of this favorite Holiday ballet with skill and poise. In The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, The Rockettes finally took center stage. They wore sexy soldier costumes, adorable rouge makeup, and the 36 Rockettes danced with precision timing, in one straight line, some facing the audience, some facing rear stage, then fast-turning, not a ballet spin, but a turn in place, much like a soldier's presentation. Not one Rockette was out of step for even a moment (After all, this was a final rehearsal), and I was enchanted and transfixed on this historical performance. One of the highpoints was the collapsing of the line, one by one, with the final Soldier falling on a pillow, a nurturing touch for this military march.
In the next scene, with revolving turntables, Santa delivers presents all over the world in a fantastic display of props and special effects. One scene also shows the window displays on Fifth Avenue, close to Rockefeller Center, with none other than The Rockettes in the windows. A special effects film takes us on a winter wonderland of skis and snowy mountains, plus a living scene of snowy, icy Central Park. Real ice-skating is demonstrated twice in this show, with two of the most sensational skaters (Jennifer Bayer-Rand and Jeb Rand) I've seen outside of professional ice dance shows. Mr. Rand swaddles and swings and swirls Ms. Rand in outstanding professionalism.
At the North Pole, we see Mrs. Claus and a collection of elves in Santa's multi-windowed home workshop, who are all entertaining; quite a surprise to see actual dwarfs (or midgets), but this was not a circus ambiance, and these very seasoned actors were very effective in the fantasy/reality so intrinsic to this Holiday.
In order to fabricate a rag doll for Clara, Santa and his elves work all night in one scene, in an enormous toy factory with wheels and pulleys, flowing sparks and streaming lights, and then multiple, red rag dolls appear and entertain, in a floppy jazz dance, with wigs and wonderment, performed by none other than, of course, The Rockettes, who must have quick-change help of army magnitude backstage. In fact, no sooner did rag dolls disappear, than reindeer appeared, all 36 of them, in brown Danskin tights and silver LaDuca shoes. With antlers on their hats and brown costumed jackets, The Rockettes again used precision timing for the entire line of reindeer to arrive at certain spots onstage at the exact moment of rhythmic expectation. In another chorus line, The Rockettes wore their superb, strapped, silver shoes, created by Phil LaDuca, with shimmering natural Danskin tights, brief, silvery costumes and long, white gloves to demonstrate rarified choreography.
Seemingly according to ritual, The Living Nativity, the final scene of the show, brings onstage 3 camels, 6 sheep, 2 donkeys, and one horse, in full, colorful regalia, and these animals are well cared for and well rehearsed. (These animals, from Dawn Animal Agency, which houses 700 unwanted or abused animals, continue a 25-year tradition of traveling from this farm to New York City for this annual Spectacular). The large onstage Nativity text and offstage narrations refer to biblical lore, and this religious depiction was not followed by extra entertainment, but rather The Mighty Wurlitzer, one last time. Kudos to Radio City Hall, The Rockettes, Charles Edward Hall, Grant Sturiale, and the entire team that has enabled this New York tradition to endure for so many years, delighting both children and adults.
Radio City Rockettes
Photo courtesy of Radio City Entertainment