A Review

The Stockings Were Hung By The Stage Door With Care . . .

By R. J. Donovan

It's old news that the Wang booked The Radio City Christmas Spectacular starring The Rockettes this season in place of Boston Ballet's "Nutcracker."  And according to all accounts, "The Nutcracker" has more than survived its move to The Colonial.

So with that out of the way, what of The Radio City Christmas Spectacular?

Directed and choreographed by Linda Haberman, the two hour holiday celebration is exactly what is said it would be -- glittering, high-kicking, singing, dancing, non-stop family entertainment.  At one point, it even snows on itself.  Along the way, it fits in almost every Christmas song in the book from "We Need A Little Christmas" to "Oh Little Town of Bethlehem."

Sure the music is on tape, and the diversity in casting could use a healthy tweaking.  But the centerpiece is that long line of lithe and leggy ladies who kick to the rafters in razor sharp precision.  And the topper is that they all look like they're genuinely having one heck of a good time doing it. 

Every number they present is a winner, whether they're reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh, floppity Raggedy Ann dolls or stiff-legged toy soldiers who inevitably topple over in a domino-effect slow motion finish.  When they present "The 12 Days Of Christmas" (their most intricate tap number, lasting more than 7 minutes), The Rockettes sing very few of the lyrics, choosing instead to mime most everything from lords a leaping to swans a swimming. 

While the Rockettes get top billing, it's Santa (William Evans) who spends the most time on stage (perhaps a little too much, truth be told).  He rocks and he rolls and he makes toys and he comes out into the audience and he rides in his sleigh and  he flies across the sky.  On a less is more basis, Old Saint Nick is better served in the Macy's Parade when he shows up at the end as the Big Finish. 

Mrs. Claus (Bethe B. Austin), on the other hand, is a hoot in her short appearance.  Her number, lamenting being separated from the old guy in red on Christmas Eve, succeeds more because of her cartoony personality than the material. No matter -- it's still fun.

But wait, there's more.  You've got assorted bears (teddy, polar and panda) dancing an abbreviated version of "The Nutcracker,"  a multitude of elves and toys waltzing around Santa's Workshop, a stageful (literally) of Santas on patrol plus a company of freshly scrubbed faces who sing and dance their way from Manhattan to The North Pole.

The only peculiar note comes at the very end of the night with The Living Nativity, which has been part of the Radio City shows since 1933.  In the production number that falls right before the Nativity scene, Santa has flown off to deliver his bag of goodies to good little boys and girls.  Then the mood abruptly shifts and we move into the story of The First Christmas, complete with camels, sheep and donkeys on stage.  When this ends, the show is over.  Bam. The house lights come up and a voice on the house sound system thanks us for coming. The piece is nicely presented and beautifully costumed, but it's still an odd finish because there's no sense of the evening building to a grand "vop!" finale. 

The production values of the show are just fine.  Patrick Fahey's sets by are bright and fresh, the costumes by Gregg Barnes and Pete Menefee are colorful and the sound design by Daniel Gerhard is sharp.

Bottom line -- with the smell of snow in the air, we need a little Christmas.  So haul out the holly and spend a little time with the Rockettes.

"The Radio City Christmas Spectacular" is at The Wang Theatre, 265 Tremont Street in Boston, through December 31. For information, call 800-447-7400 or visit www.telecharge.com.

-- OnStage Boston


To receive an email Update when new pages are posted at OnStage Boston, click here.


© 2002-2004 RJD Associates. All Rights Reserved.
No portion of this site may be reprinted or reproduced without prior written permission.