I knew the Rockettes had been around for a long time but I had no idea they got their start in 1925 in Missouri (the 85-year celebration refers to their time at Radio City).
I finally coughed up the money for two tickets (ouch) and the boy and I went to Radio City last Friday. In honor of the big anniversary, this year's show was a lot of emphasis on the classics plus fancy techno bells and whistles. Santa acted as a sort of master of ceremonies and during one of the earlier portions of the show he talks about the Rockettes' legacy and shows the costumes through the ages. I love this Bob Mackie-designed costume that debuted in 1982.
A series of bears performed the dances from the Nutcracker which was really sweet, and the Rockettes followed it up with their famous toy soldier number. Find it on YouTube; their precision is pure insanity. The Christmas in New York number perfectly sums up the blend of old and new the Rockettes were after, and I wish the show had stayed more on this track. The Rockettes board a doubledecker tour bus in candy cane-striped coats and ride through Rockefeller Center, Columbus Circle, through Central Park, past the skating rink, and end with their classic kick line in Times Square (just ignore that Chase bank logo in the back right. Yuck.). A screen shows the city scenes and the bus turns perfectly to match the changing views for something really immersive and beautiful.
But after that, the show got a little weird. After about 45 minutes, we get "Rockettes to the Rescue", the one narrative number with speaking. Since when is there speaking in a Rockette show? A mother (a large, "sassy" black woman, natch), is running all over town to find the toy of the year for her daughter. She tries to enlist the help of the mall Santa her daughter is taking a picture with but he decides she really needs to learn the lesson of time being the most valuable Christmas gift of all. He creates a special mother-daughter video game where they play as Rockettes fighting the Humbugs who've stolen all the Christmas presents. Their weapon? Christmas cheer. So the audience puts on their 3D glasses and watches the Rockettes dance-fight in front of an enormous screen, battling evil gingerbread men and a host of other enemies.
The Rockettes absolutely shrink in front of the screen. I know there's the worry that a show like the Christmas Spectacular can't compete with other entertainment options, but I think it's a little bit insulting to the audience to assume that they won't come to--or enjoy--a show that's strictly dance. I know I'm an old-fashioned girl, but I was a little disappointed. Also disappointing was the uneven transition; as soon as the video game number was over, we switched to seeing the mother reading the nativity story to her daughter straight from the Bible. The "Living Nativity" number was breathtaking, though, with the live camels and donkeys crossing the stage and the elaborate costumes. I had a great time, see:
Want more Rockettes? I definitely recommend checking out the timeline on their website