Radio City Christmas Spectacular
|Show type||Annual holiday production|
|Date of premiere||December 21, 1933|
|Location||New York City
|Director and Choreographer||Linda Haberman|
Michael Patrick Walker
|Set Designer||Patrick Fahey|
|Costume Designers||Frank Krenz
|Sound Designer||Dan Gerhard|
|Lighting Designer||David Agress|
|Musical Director||Gary Adler|
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is an annual musical holiday stage show presented at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The show features over 140 performers, lavish sets and costumes and an original musical score. The 90 minute revue combines singing, dancing and humor with traditional scenes in spectacular stage settings. The star performers are the women's precision dance troupe known as the Rockettes. Since the first version was presented in 1933, the show has become a New York Christmas tradition seen by more than a million visitors a year.
The 2013 production is currently running from November 8 through December 30, 2013.
The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show began in 1933 when the Music Hall presented lavish live stage shows along with the latest Hollywood feature films. The first Christmas show was produced December 21, 1933, along with the RKO musical movie Flying Down to Rio and The Night Before Christmas, a Walt Disney Silly Symphony, and ran for two weeks. This was just one year after the opening of the Music Hall in 1932. The show was created by the Music Hall's stage producer Leon Leonidoff and designer Vincente Minnelli. It consisted of an overture with Erno Rapee and the Radio City Symphony; a solo on the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ; a performance by Jan Peerce; a Toy Shop Ballet; The Rockettes' performance of "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers", choreographed by their founder, Russell Markert; and "The Living Nativity". These last two scenes have continued in every edition of the annual show up to the present day. The Christmas show, like all the Radio City stage shows, continued to be produced and choreographed by Leonidoff and Markert through the early decades of the Music Hall's history. Later, Peter Gennaro and others produced the annual show.
In 1979, after the Music Hall ceased showing feature films, the Christmas show was transformed from a 30-minute stage feature into a stand-alone 90-minute show. It incorporated many new scenes and additional acts have since been regularly added. Technology that did not exist in 1933 has been incorporated to bring the show up to date with many special effects, including the 3-D film which now opens the show.
A corresponding Spring show, the Radio City Spring Spectacular, replacing the annual Radio City Easter Extravaganza, was produced from 1979 to 1997. It included the popular traditional "Easter Parade" number with the Rockettes.
In addition to the Christmas show's annual production at Radio City, road companies have presented a touring version in theaters throughout the United States. The first Christmas Spectacular outside of Radio City was presented in Branson, Missouri at the Grand Palace Theatre in 1994. The Rockettes, having been originally founded in St. Louis (where they were called the Missouri Rockets), literally returned home for the extravaganza. The successful show launched a national tour the following year. The original touring show was presented in conjunction with Herschend Family Entertainment Corporation and ran from 1994 to 2003. In 2008, a new tour consisting of the 2007 edition was launched, playing at select theaters and arena venues around the country.
Beginning in 2002, the show began an annual run that continues (As of 2013[update]) at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tennessee, as part of Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center's "A Country Christmas" celebration.
In 2007, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Christmas show, an entirely new edition of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular was updated, designed and choreographed under the direction of Linda Haberman. For a brief time it was one of the few shows playing in New York in December, 2007, during a strike which closed most Broadway theaters. This edition of the show was filmed and has been released on DVD (see below).
In 2011, the show updated again and was titled The Rockettes Magical Journey. The new production featured an updated 3DLIVE scene, new musical numbers and well-known scenes such as the Parade of Wooden Soldiers and the Living Nativity. The program's story focused on the Rockettes as they enter the Northern Forest to the castle of the Humbug King who has stolen toys from Santa Claus’ workshop. In 2012, a slightly altered version of the previous incarnation, this time titled The Rockettes Celebration!, celebrated the 85th anniversary of the Rockettes and the 80th anniversary of the Christmas Spectacular with a brand new scene.
In a snow-filled forest, reindeer hurry to hook up to their special sleigh, already bursting with presents. The gathering is merry and wonderful, and the excitement is just beginning (“Sleigh Ride”). Santa arrives, frolicking with good cheer. His energetic helpers wave goodbye with a smile. They dash off quickly to make it in time for the big show at Radio City Music Hall. Santa’s sleigh flies over the frozen north, past international borders and right into the doors of Radio City Music Hall in New York City (“Santa Flies to New York”). The reindeer are flying in perfect unison, bells chiming in tune, pulling Santa and his sleigh on a spectacular winter night. Santa Claus brings up the curtain as the world-famous Radio City Rockettes bring the Great Stage to life with their twist of the beloved carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas.”
Every girl has a favorite toy. The fuzzy clown with the big buttons and the even bigger smile and a cuddly bear that’s always a perfectly furry gentleman. Clara dreams about those same toys and when an oversized paw reaches out to her little hand, Clara’s dreams come true (“The Nutcracker”).
Billowy feathers sit high atop shiny chin-strapped hats. Classic, impeccable uniforms of red, yellow, blue and white are a spectacle of crispness and a cascade of colors. With rosy-cheeked salutes and soldierly singularity, they turn, march and even take a famous fall (“The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers”). Connected by perfection, they parade their meticulous routine with dutiful delight.
Just outside Radio City Music Hall, Manhattan is buzzing with Christmas excitement. The Rockettes board a double-decker bus for a whirlwind tour of the city (“New York at Christmas”). As they bundle up in their winter coats and stretch their legs, the Rockettes take in the sights from the ice skating in Central Park to the heart of Times Square.
At a local mall in New York City, Santa meets a young girl, Kayla, and her mother. The mother is on a mission to snag a certain hard-to-find gift. As they rush to find it, Santa decides to give the mother a hand but he’s going to need some help since he can’t be everywhere at once. Or can he? (“Here Comes Santa Claus”).
Along with the girl and her mother, we are whisked off to the North Pole. (“Closer Than You Know”). Once there, the take a peek inside the North Pole’s secret toy factory, meet Mrs. Claus and the elves and catch a glimpse of the colorful décor and all of the magic-making joy.
Trouble has struck at the North Pole as the Humbugs have kidnapped the toys from Santa’s Workshop. Santa enlists a mother and daughter as well as the Rockettes for a video-game mission that takes you on a magical journey through the Northern Forest all the way to the castle of the Humbug King (“Santa’s Video Game”). The Rockettes’ exciting adventure includes facing flying humbugs that hover over the audience, an army of angry Gingerbread men, a giant Ice Monster and the Humbug King himself!
Back in New York, not only does Kayla receive her gift, the mother is reminded that there is the best gift inside their heart (“Closer Than We Knew.”) And as the Radio City Christmas Spectacular comes to a close, Radio City Music Hall is transformed into a winter wonderland as the Rockettes give their grand finale (“Snow”).
Traveling almost one hundred miles to Bethlehem finding no room at the Inn, Joseph and Mary lodged at a common stable. At this remarkable, moving and seemingly ordinary place, Christ the King was born. An Angel visited nearby shepherds to tell them that a child, a savior was in a manger in the City of David. A star led three wise men to the newborn child, bringing him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (“The Living Nativity”). From near and far, the night was filled with wonderment, love and reverence, as visitors paid visit to the child who would be their Lord, changing the world forever.
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular closes with a final rendition of “Joy to the World” as the curtain falls.
Scenes and Musical Numbers
This list of scenes and musical numbers is based on the 2013 production.
- "Sleigh Ride" - Through the snowy mist of a magical Northern Forest, the Rockettes are revealed as Santa’s reindeer, intent on flying to New York City.
- "Santa Flies to New York" - A 3-D animated scene involving Santa’s sleigh ride eventually arrives at the Radio City Music Hall.
- "The Twelve Days of Christmas" - Santa brings up the Music hall curtain on a rhythmic, rousing version of the beloved carol.
- "The Nutcracker" - A sparkling new look at the Christmas classic – a cherished story of childhood dreams coming true.
- "The Parade of Wooden Soldiers" - An updated version of the original parade.
- "New York at Christmas" - The Rockettes board a customized double-decker bus for a whirlwind holiday tour of Manhattan.
- "Department Store" - Santa meets a young girl and her mother who are searching for a certain hard-to-find gift.
- "Here Comes Santa Claus" - How does Santa do it year after year? He can be everywhere at once.
- "Closer Than You Know" - The girl and her mother visit the North Pole, the home of Santa’s busy workshop and find the gift.
- "Santa's Video Game" - Humbugs have kidnapped the toys from Santa’s workshop. The Rockettes embark on a journey to save Christmas.
- "Closer Than We Knew" - The mom and daughter are reminded that sometimes the best gift of all is right there all along.
- "Snow" - The stage is transformed into a glistening winter wonderland as the Rockettes shine like never before.
- "The Living Nativity" - The beautiful and inspiring story of the first Christmas - told in pageantry, music and scripture.
- "Joy To The World" - Lend your voice as we celebrate the arrival of this happiest of seasons.
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes
Released by Time Life Entertainment on November 4, 2008, the DVD features the complete 75th anniversary edition of the show, filmed in 2007. A two disc version also includes a behind-the-scenes documentary called Diamond at the Rock. A 30 minute special version premiered on NBC December 1, 2007, hosted by Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira.
Christmas at Radio City Music Hall
Produced by HBO in 1986, the show was at the time titled "The Magnificent Christmas Spectacular". The special was hosted by Joel Grey and included highlights of the Christmas show along with special performances from Leslie Uggams, Peggy Fleming and Robin Cousins. The special has never been released to the public commercially, but clips of it can be viewed on YouTube.
The Radio City Rockettes Sing Your Christmas Favorites (Mega Media, 2008)
Produced by Grammy award winner John Porter.
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular (Sony, 2000)
A cast recording of the music from the 1999 and 2000 shows, recorded in 2000.
|2.||"Santa's Gonna Rock and Roll"||2:43|
|3.||"Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree"||2:53|
|4.||"First Letter/Parade of the Wooden Soldiers"||5:07|
|5.||"Second Letter/Here Comes Santa Claus"||5:27|
|6.||"Third Letter/White Christmas in New York"||14:32|
|7.||"The Man With the Bag"||1:56|
|10.||"Jing-A-Ling/The Reindeer Dance/The Fly-Away"||5:28|
|11.||"The Living Nativity"||9:56|
Radio City Music Hall Presents Songs of Christmas (Sony, 1991, out of print)
The 1990 edition of the show.
Christmas Holidays at Radio City Music Hall (CCD, 1958, out of print)
Featuring: Raymond Paige and the Radio City Music Hall Symphony, Richard Leibert at the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ, and the Radio City Music Hall Choral Ensemble.
- Mordaunt Hall, "Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and Others in a Musical Film". The New York Times, December 22, 1933.
- Radio City Music Hall History, November 3, 2012.
- Lawrence Van Gelder, "A Nimble 75-Year-Old Gets a Little Nip and Tuck". The New York Times, November 16, 2007.
- Amazon, Radio City Christmas Spectacular DVD November 3, 2012.
- Radio City Store, Christmas Favorites, November 3, 2012.
- Radio City Store, Radio City Christmas Soundtrack, November 3, 2012.
- Amazon.com, Songs of Christmas, November 3, 2012.
- Sherman, Robert B. (1998). Walt's Time: From Before to Beyond. Santa Clarita, Calif.: Camphor Tree. ISBN 0-9646059-3-7.
- Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring the Rockettes program guide
- The Radio City Rockettes: A dance through time. Published by Msg entertainment 2006
- Christmas in New York:A Pop-Up Book By Chuck Fischer. Published by Bullfinch Press
Media related to Radio City Christmas Spectacular at Wikimedia Commons
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