Review: The Rockettes sparkle in Radio City Christmas Spectacular

"New York at Christmas" in particular was a stunning visual and aural spectacle (Hello, GAP?).

Radio City Rockettes.
Radio City Rockettes. Photo courtesy of MSGE.
In Review

Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring The Rockettes

4 out of 4 stars
4 out of 5 stars - 'Smashing'
    HP Pavilion, San Jose
    Directed and choreographed by Linda Haberman
    Costumes by Vincente Minnelli ("Meet Me in St. Louis," "An American in Paris")
    Review by Clinton Stark
    Radio City Rockettes.
    Radio City Rockettes. Photo courtesy of MSGE.

    Spectacular it was. The Rockettes were in town over the weekend to kick off the holiday season in style with the touring Radio City Christmas Spectacular. The San Jose HP Pavilion crowd which included more than a few wide-eyed children were treated to a classic, high-spirited 90-minute show that showcased the best of New York and Christmas tradition.

    During an energetic capstone mid-way through I experienced what life surely must be like in a snow-globe. Canons blasted confetti and streamers over us happy clams seated on the arena floor. It showered down as music, lights and singing dazzled the senses. Just when I thought calm had returned, the canons blasted us again; a second time, a third time… Boom – Boom. And the Pavilion again was awash in a virtual snow storm. It was magical. (trivia: 3,300 pounds of “snow” will fall upon the audience during the 19-city run).

    Despite the whiz-bang effects, however, The Rockettes are the real stars. Lest you think this show is just a bunch of repetitive line dancing, you be wrong, Ebenezer. Both my date for the night, doe-eyed wife Loni, and I were surprised at the variety of arrangements and dance styles: Raggedy Anne, Toy Soldiers, Nutcracker (with bears!), and, of course, the fabulous kicking Rockettes glitter line we’ve all come to adore (for 75 years!).

    Santa Claus plays host, and does well although I wondered if perhaps he was a little too trim. He could use a few extra Tuna melts or Polish foot longs. Still, who better to work a crowd than old St. Nick himself?

    Radio City Christmas Spectacular
    Radio City Christmas Spectacular 75th Anniversary. Credit Photo: Paul Kolnik.

    “New York at Christmas” in particular was a stunning visual and aural spectacle (Hello, GAP?). A tour bus takes us around NYC, visiting famous landmarks including the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and Times Square. Legs — I was paying close attention — come flying out of the bus windows as the women sing and dance their way through-out the infectious number.

    One nit is the nativity scene which feels completely out of place (although a fixture of the show since 1933). It feels shoe-horned into a production that is otherwise about glitter, dancing and glossy celebration of the holiday season. I can appreciate the effort to include the “stirring communal celebration,” however it felt like a bit of a sponsored message, you know, brought to us by Santa, Jesus and the three Kings.

    Speaking of sponsorship, Macy’s works it advertising magic on some clever product placements.

    New York at Christmas

    There’s a reason why The Rockettes — and in particular this Radio City Christmas Spectacular — have been entertaining America since 1925 when they first kicked to life as the “Missouri Rockets.” And the evidence was on glorious display at the HP Pavilion over the weekend. The show now heads to Boise, then Portland, and other cities over the coming weeks. It’s a wonderful celebration of tradition, and is a perfect family outing… just be ready to experience life in a snow-globe.

    Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring The Rockettes
    Directed and choreographed by Linda Haberman
    Costumes by Vincente Minnelli (“Meet Me in St. Louis,” “An American in Paris”)
    4 out of 5 stars
    HP Pavilion, San Jose
    Now touring the country


    • 18 Radio City Rockettes star in the show, alongside Santa (and his clones, thanks to 850 yards of red velvet), 16 ensemble, 8 singers, 6 children, and 1 incredible 25 X 65′ LED screen.
    • 22 trucks transport the sets from city to city.
    • The technologically advanced stage was designed by Tait Towers, who has designed staging for the Rolling Stones, Justin Timberlake, Madonna and U2.
    • The Rockettes will perform more than 300 eye-high kicks in each show totaling 437,400 eye-high kicks during the tour.
    • 14,096 AA batteries are used during the show’s run. These batteries are used to power the wireless microphones that are worn on-stage by the entire cast.
    • Wardrobe will used more than 6,000 red dots per season to brighten the cheeks of the Rockettes during the “Rag Doll” and “Wooden Soldier” numbers.
    • The Rockettes wear a 24-inch tall hat, including the plume on top. This means that a 5’10” Rockette stands 7’10” from toe to the top of her hat!

    Christmas Spectacular

    Follow Stark Insider on Twitter and Facebook. Join our 11,000 subscribers who read SI on tablets and smartphones on Google Newsstand. Prefer video? Watch us on Amazon Prime or subscribe to Stark Insider on YouTube, the largest arts & travel channel in San Francisco.