‘Tis The Season For The Rockettes To Fly High

By Bob Nesoff

Many cities are defined by a cultural aspect that is immediately recognizable. Los Angeles is known for the proliferation of celebrities, Chicago’s reputation for corrupt politicians is hard to dispel although it should be more remembered for its cattle stockyards, Seattle for a widespread brand of coffee.

New York City is known around the world for many things from the ball dropping on New Year’s Eve to the iconic precision troupe at Radio City Music Hall… the famed Rockettes.

Mention the Rockettes virtually anywhere in this country and abroad and there is instantaneous recognition and a connection to The Big Apple. NYLM Broadway columnist, Jim Kierstead, talks a bit about the famed troupe, but there is so much more to them. Without argument, their most famous performances are presented every Christmas season.

People queue up in all weather waiting for their turn to enter the legendary Radio City Music Hall for a show lasting just under two hours. Children may be fidgety on line, but once the show begins and the Rockettes kick their way across the stage, little girls sit with their mouths agape. Little boys, for that matter, are entranced as well.

And do their eyes ever light up when live animals are paraded across the stage as part of the Nativity scenes.

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular continues to be enhanced with fresh and dynamic content while preserving what has made the production a beloved holiday tradition. The Christmas Spectacular recently introduced a new number called “Snow,” which features GPS-enabled snowflakes.

This was followed with the debut of the re-imagined “Rag Dolls,” a classic dance number that originally debuted in 1940. Santa’s enchanted workshop in the North Pole serves as the backdrop for this high-energy tap routine, featuring the Rockettes as rag dolls. The 2015 Christmas Spectacular will feature both of these performances, which take the Rockettes signature technique and athleticism to greater heights, and will join classic performances, including “Living Nativity,” which takes audiences on an awe-inspiring journey, and “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers,” which sets the standard for the Rockettes style of precision dance.

The Rockettes are a legendary dance company and have been a part of the fabric of New York City for more than 85 years. Since their debut in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular in 1933, the Rockettes have danced into the hearts of millions and spread Christmas cheer to people of all ages. Their technique continues to be both deceivingly complex and entirely glamorous and their talent and athleticism is unrivaled.

The Rockettes have appeared in some of the most prominent events in the entertainment landscape including the 2015 NBA All-Star Game, the 2013 Super Bowl numeral unveil, the 2013 MLB Home Run Derby, NBC’s hit show, “America’s Got Talent,” and various other special events including award shows, national television appearances, sporting events and Presidential inaugurations.

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is proud to be presented by Chase. Chase’s commitment to the Christmas Spectacular supports this unparalleled production, which continues to entertain millions of families year after year.

Behind The Scenes Facts

• Radio City Music Hall houses the country’s “largest flying indoor LED screen” and has incorporated it into many of the scenes throughout the show.

• This year, 11 large DP projectors will be used to project imagery onto Radio City’s proscenium arches, creating Bethlehem’s starry night sky in the “Living Nativity” and Santa’s whimsical workshop in the North Pole.

• More than 1 million pairs of 3D glasses will distributed to patrons to experience the 3D scene featured in this year’s production.

• It takes more than 250 people to stage the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, including the cast and crew which “loads in” the production weeks before the show opens. There is a cast of 150 including Rockettes, singers, dancers, musicians and more.

• More than 1,100 colorful costumes are worn in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Each of the Rockettes must change costumes eight times during each show and in a few of the changeovers, they have as little as 78 seconds in which to change their costumes.

• In the tap numbers “Rag Dolls” and “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” the Rockettes tap shoes have microphones, meaning all of the tap sounds you hear in the theater are live.

• The double-decker bus seen in the scene “New York at Christmas” weighs an astounding seven tons and is 34 feet long and 12 feet high. During the course of the eight week run, it travels approximately 37 miles onstage. Off-stage, the bus hangs 23 feet in the air for storage.

• During the eight-week run, the animals in the “Living Nativity” drink 450 bottles of water and eat 340 bales of hay and 560 loaves of seven grain bread.

• Two of the most cherished scenes in the Radio City Christmas Spectacular are “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” and “Living Nativity” – both of which have been part of Radio City’s holiday tradition since they were first performed on the Great Stage in 1933.

• The wardrobe department goes through more than 30,000 red dots per season to brighten the cheeks of the Rockettes during “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” and “Rag Dolls.”

• Part of what makes the show possible is the technical capabilities of the Great Stage. It measures 144 feet by 66 feet. It is made up of three elevators, which may be set at any level from the sub-basement to 13 feet above the stage – resulting in a vertical drop of 40 feet. The orchestra uses a fourth elevator. Together, all four elevators weigh 380,000 pounds.

• Scenic backdrops for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular measure 80 feet in width and 45 feet in height – nearly double the normal theatrical size. The scrims (hand-painted cloth backdrops) are housed in a storage space four stories above the stage.

• The Christmas Spectacular features an “ice” rink built on a movable platform. Used in the “New York at Christmas” scene, this huge rink is made from an artificial surface with the same properties as real ice.

• There are nine free-floating snowflakes that fly throughout the theater in “Snow,” which transforms the Music Hall into a glistening winter wonderland and immerses the audience in the warmth and magic of Christmas. The snowflakes are approximately four feet in diameter and are controlled by a mini GPS system.

• A stage manager “calls” the entire show through a sound system heard only throughout the backstage areas, so the Rockettes know how much time they have to change and the handlers know when to escort the animals to the elevator. Of course, the audience doesn’t hear a word.

• As space is limited backstage to store all of the props and scenery used during the performance, much of it is stored by hanging or “flying” overhead. Thirty chain hoists are used to support the “flying” props and scenery. More than 60,000 lbs of counterweight are used to support the elaborate hanging scenery as well as the lighting equipment.

• One hundred eighty laundry baskets are used per show to hold and carry the casts’ shoes, laundry and costumes.

• Between the Rockettes, ensemble and Santa Claus, more than 1,200 pairs of shoes are worn per show.

• Three hundred fifty loads of laundry are done per week, for 16 hours per day during the week and 20 hours per day over the weekend.

• More than 1,000 Stage Door Tours are guided through the Music Hall during the busy holiday season. Approximately 23,000 people tour the Music Hall in the months of November and December. The tour allows visitors to learn about the architectural history of the Hall, experience the grandeur of the refurbished landmark and meet a Rockette.

Ticket Information
Performances of the 2015 Radio City Christmas Spectacular® runs through January 3, 2016 at Radio City Music Hall®. Tickets start at $46 and can be purchased online at RadioCityChristmas.com, Ticketmaster at
1-866-858-0007 or Radio City’s Box Office (50th St. & Avenue of the Americas). Box Office hours are daily, 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Ticket prices include a $6.00 per ticket facility charge. Tickets purchased via Ticketmaster are subject to service charges. For Groups 9+ please call 212-465-6080. Accessible and companion seats are available via the Disabled Services Department at 212-465-6115. Visit RadioCityChristmas.com for more information. Guided tours of Radio City Music Hall are available daily. For more information, visit StageDoorTour.com or call 212-247-4777.