Here's one more entry in the just-a-tad-too-late department.
On my most recent NYC trip, I was in a festive, holiday mood, and decided to take in a few touristy shows to which I otherwise might have given a very wide berth. See my reviews of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Cirque du Soleil's Wintuk below.
I also took in the 75th anniversary version of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and overall was quite entertained. Yeah, the whole thing tends to be far too flashy and slick by half, but I focused mostly on the stellar choreography, which was sharp, uniform, and plentiful, with wonderful witty touches. One number had the Rockettes performing a wordless rendition of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," and it was very cleverly done. I particularly liked when they got to "seven swans a-swimming" and did a mini homage to Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake. I hadn't been expecting genuine wit, and was pleasantly surprised.
Speaking of Tchaikovsky, another charming section of the show was the all-teddy-bear version of The Nutcracker, an abbreviated ballet for short attention spans. Again, there were numerous humorous touches, such as using panda bears in the "Chinese Dance" section.
The obligatory toy soldiers section was simple yet sweet, and executed to near perfection by the Rockettes. The first time I saw the Radio City Christmas show, I was perplexed as to why the crowd-pleasing inline backwards fall (see this video on YouTube) happened so slowly. Is that part of what makes the feat impressive? If so, I don't see why. But that seemed to be a point of interest to the folks seated around me. "Look how slow they do it," said one nearby father, apparently oblivious to the finer points of adverbs and their usage.
In fact, the Rockettes were hardly ever offstage. These are some hard-working
women, executing extended, intricate dance routines nearly flawlessly,
amid a bewildering succession of costume changes. But
whereas the choreography was excellent, the original songs that
accompanied them were simply awful, which is surprising since the
program lists Mark Waldrop as supplying the book and lyrics. (The music is by
Mark Hummel.) I've always admired Waldrop's work, particularly When Pigs Fly. But when creating content for a corporate gig, you don't always have free rein, and the art-by-committee process may have watered down the talented Waldrop's work to the point of insipidity.
The production made ample use of digital projections, no doubt a major difference between this version and the first 75 years ago. The crowd ooh-ed and aah-ed in wonder as a full-size double-decker sightseeing bus came on-stage, which the Rockettes boarded to take the crowd on a digital bus ride through a yuletide bedecked Manhattan (with not-so-subtle product placements for event sponsors North Fork Bank, Panasonic, American Express, Lincoln, and Swarovski Crystal). Other touches that seemed to impress the masses: ice-skating on-stage, fireworks, Peter-Pan-esque flying children, dwarfs, and of course the camels, donkeys, and sheep. ("It has live sheep and real airplane motors on stage. It's devastating, simply devastating...").
Because another obligatory aspect of the Christmas Spectacular is the "Living Nativity," which basically comprises the entire cast crossing downstage in Bethlehem garb, the aforementioned tranquilized fauna in tow, followed by a stage picture in front of the creche itself. It's certainly admirable that Radio City insists on including tribute to the reason behind this whole holiday season to begin with: the birth of Jesus Christ. It's nice reminder amid the glitz and schmaltz about what the holidays are really about.