‘Carnivale’ cruises

Most expensive live show in NYC sez veep

Out with Easter, in with the more pagan Carnivale.

Radio City Entertainment previewed its “Carnivale Spectacular” for group sales and potential sponsors Wednesday morning, even though the full-scale production won’t be unveiled for ticket-buying theatergoers until May 2002.

The show will join the annual “Christmas Spectacular” as Radio City’s second production, replacing the “Easter Spectacular,” which was last performed in 1997 when Radio City was owned by the Rockefeller Group. Cablevision bought Radio City in 1998.

“We’re out to establish ‘Carnivale’ as a springtime tradition,” said James Sanna, senior VP of marketing and business development for RCE. “We’d actually like to do three seasonal shows, but we’re a few years away from that.”

Costly endeavor

Sanna estimated the cost of “Carnivale” at $30 million. “It’s going to be the most expensive live show ever mounted in New York City,” he said. Disney does not release such figures, but industry observers have put the capitalization of “The Lion King” on Broadway at between $15 million and $20 million. A few Las Vegas shows have been capitalized at more than $30 million.

Radio City Entertainment brought in Jay Smith to executive produce the spring extravaganza seven months ago, at which time the “Carnivale” theme was already in place. “Easter has a religious component, and we’re looking for a show for all of New York,” Sanna said. “If you look at the composition of the city, ‘Carnivale’ represents a broader range of potential patrons. We also think ‘Carnivale’ is a more contemporary way of doing a spring spectacular.”

Short performance sked

Surprisingly, “Carnivale” will play only 22 performances in May 2002, as opposed to the “Christmas Spectacular,” which clocked in 230 perfs last time around.

“We want to open in a big way and sell out,” Smith said.

“In future seasons, we’ll expand from there to meet the demand,” Sanna said.

The “Carnivale” creative team includes director Graciela Daniele, Carnivale master Peter Minshall, composer Emilio Estefan, costume designer Constance Hoffman, production designer David Rockwell, lighting designers Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer, music supervisor Daryl Waters, writer Mark Waldrop and choreographers Mark Dendy and Willie Rosario.

Smith said the original brainstorming session on the “Carnivale” concept also included Franco Dragone of Cirque du Soleil and Linda Woolverton, screenwriter of “The Lion King.”

Rambunctious Rockettes

As for the “Carnivale” show itself, invited guests to Radio City entered the art deco theater as several painters rappelled down the side of a huge scrim displaying a symbol of the equinox, which they continued to splash paint across. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani introduced Cablevision’s James Dolan, who introduced the Rockettes, who began their usual high-kick routine dressed in short raincoats as the orchestra played traditional New York-themed songs by Leonard Bernstein and John Kander, among others. Soon, the fabled dancers launched into a quick, tasteful striptease that revealed much skimpier gold lame outfits. They then proceeded to perform dance maneuvers reminiscent of Katherine Dunham as they threw back their hair and undulated across the floor to a calypso beat.

“One of the goals is to showcase the Rockettes in a new way,” Smith said, “to break out of line a bit but keep that Rockette precision.”

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