note: entire contents copyright 2011 by Sheila Barth
When describing the Radio City Christmas Spectacular all-new, 12-scene show currently headlining at the Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre, the word spectacular should be emblazoned with huge, glittery letters, followed by a string of “s” words: streamlined, sleek, sunshiny, sparkling, sensational. MSG Entertainment has brought back 21 gorgeous, leggy precision dancers to Boston in this new production, along with six singers, an additional dance ensemble, and a jolly, blustery, bearded Santa who performs magic, flies through the air, and dispels all non-believers in this magnificent, eye-popping, holiday extravaganza.
New songs, composed by Mark Waldrop and Mark Hummel, are fresh and crisp, nicely arranged by Gary Adler and directed by Gordon Twist. Gregg Barnes and Pete Menefee’s costumes, Patrick Fahey’s sets, David Agress’ lighting and Daniel Gerhard’s sound design rival Las Vegas‘ showiness.
Besides swirling lights, snowbeams and snowflakes, hologram images, showers of falling silver and gold confetti, multi-colored streamers shot into the audience, and more, one of the show’s most captivating scenes is Scene Six, when the dancers, dressed in white and gold coats and hats, board a double-decker bus, that moves and turns slightly, while the 50-foot LED screen in the background beams streetscapes of Christmastime in New York City - Rockefeller Plaza, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Central Park, Washington Square, Broadway, and Times Square, passing traffic, shoppers, dancers and singers.
The opening, all-time favorite scene features Santa and his prancing reindeer, hitching up for a sleigh ride, and into the overture, as Santa races through the aisle, singing and greeting theatergoers.
Also breathtaking is the Rockettes’ most beloved and memorable precision number - The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers - where they are cranked up, marching stiffly, their spit-and-polish uniforms of tall black hats, red jackets and white pants a sight to behold - especially during their intricate, interweaving routines, ending with their domino-style collapse, drawing ooohs, aaaahs, and wows.
The little ones especially enjoy their “Nutcracker” scene with dancing teddy bears and little ballerina Clara on pointe.
In the second act, those of us who remember spending our sparse shekels and schlepping the family to Radio City Music Hall to see that one special performance of the Rockettes appreciate a trip back to Memory Lane in Scene 8. As Santa stands on a street corner, ringing his bell for donations in his red pail, 10-year-old Ben and his 14-year-old brother, Patrick, are rushing to finish their last-minute shopping, with limited funds. As a prelude, in Scene 7, Santa shows them how he can be everywhere at once, in a delightful, jazzed-up ensemble number, then convinces the boys about his holiday magic, flying them through the air, to the North Pole. In his toy warehouse, a present for their little sister finds them, in a cleverly, newly-choreographed and costumed Raggedy Ann Doll number. On the screen background, hanging ornaments change size and hue, while towering shelves boast Santa’s unimaginable inventory. As the two boys are surrounded by Santa’s magic, the audience is treated to footage of Christmas memories, of the Rockettes’ inception as the Radio City Roxy-ettes in 1932; their entertaining military troops overseas in 1941; their appearing on TV in 1957; the show’s closing in the 1970s because of tough times economically; reopening in 1985, then continuing on an upward swing, expanding and delighting audiences with their glamor, precision dancing, glittering costumes and spectacular sight, sound and stage effects.
Despite all the glitz and glitter, the Rockettes also continue to include the true meaning of Christmas, with a reverential, moving Nativity scene; and they spread joy to the world with their finale, “Let Christmas Shine”.
BOX INFO: Two-act all-new show, starring the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes, now through Dec. 28, at the Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre, 270 Tremont St., Boston. Performances are Dec. 23, at 2,5,8 p.m.; Dec. 22, 5,8 p.m.; Dec. 26-28, 2,5 p.m. Tickets, $25-$83. Visit www.citicenter.org, the Box Office, or call 866-348-9748.