Radio City Christmas Spectacular

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Radio City
Christmas Spectacular
Company MSG Entertainment
Genre Musical
Show type Annual holiday production
Date of premiere December 21, 1933
Location New York City
Creative team
Director and Choreographer Linda Haberman
Writers Mark Waldrop
Doug Wright
Lyricist Mark Waldrop
Composers Gary Adler
Mark Hummel
Michael Patrick Walker
Set Designer Patrick Fahey
Costume Designers Frank Krenz
Gregg Barnes
Martin Pakledinaz
Sound Designer Dan Gerhard
Lighting Designer David Agress
Musical Director Gary Adler
Official website

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is an annual musical holiday stage show presented at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The 90-minute show features more than 140 performers and an original musical score, and combines singing, dancing and humor with traditional scenes. The star performers are the women's precision dance troupe the Rockettes. Since the first version was presented in 1933, the show has become a New York Christmas tradition.


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.[1] 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.[2]

After the Music Hall ceased showing feature films, the Christmas show was transformed from a 30-minute stage feature into a standalone 90-minute show.[citation needed] It incorporated many new scenes and additional acts have since been added regularly.[citation needed]

A corresponding spring show, the Radio City Spring Spectacular, replacing the annual Radio City Easter Extravaganza,[citation needed] was produced from 1979[citation needed] to 1997.[3] It included the traditional "Easter Parade" number with the Rockettes.[citation needed]

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. Two of the best-known annual runs on both tours have taken place in Rosemont, Illinois, taking place at the Rosemont Theatre from 1995-2003 and again since 2008, and in Los Angeles, at the Gibson Amphitheatre from 1995-2003 and the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live from 2008 onward.

Beginning in 2002, the show began an annual run that continues (As of 2013) 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.[4] This edition of the show was filmed and has been released on DVD (see below).

In 2011, the show was titled The Rockettes Magical Journey. The production featured an updated 3DLIVE scene and new musical numbers in addition to the Parade of Wooden Soldiers and the Living Nativity. The 2011 program's story focused on the Rockettes as they traveled through the Northern Forest to the castle of the Humbug King who had stolen toys from Santa Claus’ workshop. In 2012, a slightly altered version was titled The Rockettes Celebration!, celebrating the 85th anniversary of the Rockettes and the 80th anniversary of the Christmas Spectacular with a brand new scene. In 2013 a new finale entitled "Snow" replaced "Let Christmas Shine."

The Program (2007)[edit]


In a snow-filled forest, the Rockettes as reindeer hurry to hook up Santa Claus' sleigh (“Sleigh Ride”). Santa arrives and he, along with the Rockettes, fly off to Radio City Music Hall in New York City (“Santa Flies to New York”), and introduces the Rockettes who perform “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. A young girl named Clara dreams about those same toys and when an oversized paw reaches out to her little hand, making her dream come true (“The Nutcracker”). Later, the Rockettes become wooden soldiers, whereupon they turn, march and fall (“The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers”).

Outside the hall, Manhattan is buzzing with Christmas excitement. The Rockettes board a double-decker bus for a 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, Santa meets a young girl named Kayla, and her mother. The mother is on a mission to snag a certain hard-to-find gift, a Jumping Jasmine doll. As they rush to find it, Santa realizes he can't keep the other children waiting and wishes how he could be everywhere at once as dozens of other Santa Clauses come out onstage and dance (“Here Comes Santa Claus”).

Santa, Kayla, and her mother are whisked off to the North Pole on a blizzard. (“Closer Than You Know”). There, they meet Mrs. Claus and the elves and catch a glimpse of the colorful décor and all of the magic-making joy. Santa suggests to Kayla and her mother that they'll find a Jumping Jasmine doll in the toy shop. However, Humbugs have kidnapped the toys. Santa enlists Kayla and her mother, as well as the Rockettes, for a video game mission on a magical journey through the Northern Forest all the way to the Humbug King's castle, facing flying humbugs that hover over the audience, a gingerbread army, a giant ice monster and the Humbug King himself. (“Santa’s Video Game”). 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.”) In the finale, Radio City Music Hall is transformed into a winter wonderland (“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 as the show closes with “Joy to the World” as the curtain falls.

Musical numbers[edit]

  • "Sleigh Ride" - Orchestra
  • "Santa Flies to New York" - Santa and the Rockettes
  • "The Twelve Days of Christmas" - Santa and the Rockettes
  • "The Nutcracker" - Orchestra
  • "The Parade of Wooden Soldiers" - Orchestra
  • "New York at Christmas" - The Rockettes
  • "Department Store" - Santa, Kayla
  • "Here Comes Santa Claus" - Santa and the Rockettes
  • "Closer Than You Know" - Santa, Kayla and Mother
  • "Santa's Video Game" - Santa and the Rockettes
  • "Closer Than We Knew" - Kayla and Mother
  • "Snow" - The Rockettes
  • "The Living Nativity" - Company
  • "Joy To The World" - Company


"Let Christmas Shine"
"The Living Nativity"


The Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes[5]

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.[6]

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular (Sony, 2000)

A cast recording of the music from the 1999 and 2000 shows, recorded in 2000.[7]

Track listing
No. Title Length
1. "Overture"   3:05
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
8. "Toyland Ball"   3:15
9. "Welcome Christmas"   2:22
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.[8]

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.



  • 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

External links[edit]

Media related to Radio City Christmas Spectacular at Wikimedia Commons