Off Broadway Reviews
Those would, of course, be the 36 Rockettes who, through their military-precise hoofing, kicking, and goodwill knock out the blues and propel us into the Technicolor universe of eternal Yuletide happiness in which this show so comfortably rests. Whether they're costumed (variously by Gregg Barnes, Frank Krenz, and the late Martin Pakledinaz) as reindeer, toy-making elves, rag dolls, Ol' Saint Nick himself, wooden soldiers, inhabitants of the ancient Middle East (for the ever-uplifting Living Nativity), or their own bountifully glamorous selves, they own their top-spot billing and are in unwavering command of the talent that got them there.
It's tough to pick a favorite moment, aside from the "March of Wooden Soldiers," which remains pinpoint clarity and creativity and completely satisfying, even though it's been on the bill since the Spectacular's premiere in the early 1930s. I do love their tap-driven deconstruction of "12 Days of Christmas," which keeps breaking apart and recombining tiny groups of the women until they unite for the flourishing, unison finish. And there's just something unavoidably friendly and likable about their upscale-tourist spin in "New York at Christmas," as they gradually progress from sightseers in glittering, fur-lined overcoats to the sequin-strewn spirit of Times Square. But they sparkle no less elegantly when embodying crystal-encrusted snowflakes for the dreamlike "Let it Snow" sequence near the end.
Even so, I'm positive some new material has found its way into the mix this year. The overture (arranged by Stites and orchestrated by Christopher Jahnke) incorporates a broader swatch of Christmas songs now, as well as the vocalists andmost surprising to my earthe two organists who usually vanish after providing the pre-show tunes. And there were some dance breaks (in "12 Days" for sure, but also the "New York at Christmas" and "Here Comes Santa Claus" blow-outs) that I didn't recognizethey really sounded like jolts of old-fashioned melody woven in, admittedly skillfully, to contribute even more to the evening's richly timeless feel.
That's not in any way a problem, but it's not needednothing can make the Christmas Spectacular old-fashioned. It doesn't just exist in its own isolated world: It creates it anew every year, hanging on to some traditions here and injecting a few new things there, but always going where the fun is to be found and embracing it wholeheartedly. No, it doesn't solve any of the world or the country's pressing problems. But it's expert at making you forget them for 90 minutes. And in a year like 2016, you couldn't ask for a better Christmas miracle.
Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular