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Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes

The 79th annual edition of the "Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes" -- that's the full title -- has been overhauled with new technology and extensive digital enhancements to make it the biggest "Spectacular" yet.

With:
Santa Claus - Charles Edward Hall
Clara - Juliet Doherty/Madeleine Gardella
Tracy - De'Adre AzizaNatalie Venetia Belcon/Adrienne Muller
Kayla - Erica Simone Barnett/Jordyn Midi/Madison Zamor

The 79th annual edition of the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes” — that’s the full title — has been overhauled with new technology and extensive digital enhancements to make it the biggest “Spectacular” yet. Last revised in 2007, the show now literally wraps the walls and ceiling of the ginormous hall in digital projections, with a 3D videogame adventure as the piece de resistance. Even so, the best moments are the old standards: “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” comes from the initial 1933 edition, and the still-effective costumes from a young designer from Chicago named Vincente Minnelli.

Though likely to thrill the throngs who visit year after year, the show reps 90 minutes of ups and downs. For fans of synchronized dancing, there are the Rockettes, all 36 of them. Meticulously trained, hard-working professionals with big smiles, the dancers are featured in number after number, always pretty much the same, though none of their material begins to approach the imagination or humor of those wooden soldiers from 1933.

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A second winning number, “Here Comes Santa Claus,” is a leftover from the 1990s, when choreographer Robert Longbottom was in residence. The arrangement features 48 Santas — including, presumably, all those Rockettes in red suits — with bells on, plus another hundred or so on the LED screen. The show also includes some effective use of 3D (glasses included), such as “Santa Flies to New York” (watch out for that polar bear throwing a snowball in your face). The “Living Nativity” has once more been spruced up, now enhanced with a starry night projected overhead. On opening night, the six sheep and three camels already looked bored, but the donkey seemed content.

The newer material in this edition, directed and choreographed by Linda Haberman (who’s been onboard since 2006), is less inviting. First half consists of specialty numbers, while the second includes an uncompelling mini-story of an overstressed mother and her well-adjusted child shopping for Christmas presents. The sequence is built around a song, “Closer Than You Know,” that falls flat the two or three times it is sung. And while the stage, and the Rockettes, are then transformed into what’s supposed to be a big 3D videogame, the apparent fun is not at all infectious.

Reservations aside, this new “Christmas Spectacular” fills the hall with holiday spirit, employs all those Rockettes amid a running cast/crew of 200-plus, and keeps Radio City the place for tourists to be in December.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes

5,931 seats; $125 top

Production: Credits: An MSG Entertainment presentation of a show in one act conceived, directed and choreographed by Linda Haberman, with music by Gary Adler, Mark Hummel, Michael Patrick Walker; book and lyrics by Mark Waldrop. Music direction, Adler.

Creative: Sets, Patrick Fahey; costumes, Frank Krenz, Martin Pakledinaz; lighting, David Agress; sound, Dan Gerhard; LED video and design, Batwin + Robin Prods.; 3D film animation, Sythespian Studios; videogame 3D animation, Reel FX; orchestrations, Doug Besterman, Larry Hochman, Dave Pierce, Lynne Shankel, Danny Troob, Jonathan Tunick; production stage manager, Kathy J. Hoovler. Opened, reviewed Nov. 16, 2011. Runs through Jan. 2. Running time: 1 HOUR, 25 MIN.

Cast: Santa Claus - Charles Edward Hall
Clara - Juliet Doherty/Madeleine Gardella
Tracy - De'Adre AzizaNatalie Venetia Belcon/Adrienne Muller
Kayla - Erica Simone Barnett/Jordyn Midi/Madison ZamorWith: The Rockettes.

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