Off Broadway Reviews
Oh, it's been hinted at for yearsin the three-dimensional projected sleigh ride and plenty of scenery that lights up on the vast upstage LED wallbut that's all background stuff. This year, the 12th of the 14 scenes in New York's defining theatrical spectacle treats the cold, white crystals directly, and as only it can. First the world-famous Rockette's melt on to dance with their usual precision (cooled down here, along with their glass-glittery costumes, which are credited to Gregg Barnes, Frank Krenz, and the late Martin Pakledinaz), then a collection of giant, transparent snow globes explodes from the orchestra pit, and, of course, the whole thing finishes with a literal blizzard of paper flakes that elicit the de rigueur oohs and ahhs from the crowd.
Effective? Yes. Corny? Strangely, not really. Because the entire enterprise, directed and choreographed this time around by Julie Branam (with additional direction by Mark Waldrop), hearkens back to a show-biz mentality that's so far removed from ours it may as well be spoken in a dead language, the bigger and crazier things get, the more intimate and appropriate they become. Though this is especially true of the 36 onstage Rockettes, who make a dizzying number of split-second costume changes and appear to kick about as tall as the Top of the Rock, the charged, festive atmosphere extends to everything from the stunning, sprawling orchestra (conducted by Kevin Stites) cut-down, cartooned-up Nutcracker to the picture-postcard city tour "New York at Christmas" (complete with ice skaters!), and even the five-scene story that constitutes the closest thing to an emotional center you'll find here.
Though it's always good to see Hall, eternally youthful and charismatic as St. Nick, the Rockettes remain the stars of note, and the most innately moving fixtures. You expect their hoofing as reindeer, of course, the furious tapping of the percussively engrossing "Twelve Days of Christmas" bit, or the fireworks-crowned, high-hemmed kickline celebrating New York brassiness at midshow. But it can be easy to forget how their stunning precision jolts the deceptively complex "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" to show-stopping life, or how pointedly each gifted woman blends costume drama with genuine reverence for the Living Nativity that sends out the Spectacular on a truly stirring note.
Do you need snow on top of all of this? Probably not. But more than the gleaming tribute to the Rockettes it replaces, that scene completes the epic holiday sweep of the Christmas Spectacular and offers old and young alike yet another dazzling experience to remember and share for many years (if not decades) to come. Despite having spent many a year in the Music Hall myself, once again from first moment to last I felt as though I, too, was a kid again, and catapulted to the crystalline Christmases of years past, when the New Year ahead held hope and the promise of magic beyond my then-capacity of measuring. As an adult, I might know those thousands of flying flakes are paper. But within the time- and logic-defying confines of the Christmas Spectacular, I'll be darned if theylike practically everything elsedidn't seem more real than the real thing.
Radio City Christmas Spectacular 2014