Christmas Spectacular – Radio City Music Hall (New York, NY), 12.15.15

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Since I was already going to be in the City to see Misery last Tuesday, I decided to really make a full day of it and try to squeeze in as much as I was physically able to do in one day. I obviously love New York, but I love New York even more during the holidays; they really know how to do the city up for Christmas and it’s enough to melt even my black Grinch heart. Every year I think that I’m finally going to find the time to check out the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes and every year that doesn’t come to fruition. Part of that is my underlying indifference about the whole thing; my desire to see the show came more from feeling like it was something that I should experience rather than one that I necessarily wanted to experience. I was a little skeptical that this was going to be something that was necessarily up my alley as it seemed a little hokey and too family oriented for my particular tastes. The cost had been a little prohibitive as well, as I didn’t want to be way up in the balcony but I also didn’t want to drop $100 on a show that I was already unsure of to begin with. It all fell into place for Tuesday, however, since I was able to find deeply discounted tickets and having an activity that allowed me to sit down for a while was exactly what the doctor ordered. The only downside was that I was going to the 11 am show, which necessitated taking the 6:55 am train into New York. Since my return train wasn’t coming in until 1:15 am, that made for a very long day.

In all my trips to New York I’ve never previously had occasion to go inside Radio City Music Hall. I of course knew where it was, given its close proximity to Rockefeller Center, but I always just passed it by, its existence barely registering in my subconscious. I figured it was nice, but I was fully unprepared for the scene that greeted me when I entered:

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I’m not used to frequenting places that are so over the top. It really was beautiful and classic and I was instantly glad that I was there. It’s old school – there are at least two lounges outside the bathrooms – but with some nods to the modern world. The fact that they had a free cell phone charging station automatically bolstered my opinion of the place. Most important, the plush seats in the theater were very comfortable. We have some old theaters here in the Albany area that are beautiful, but the seats are so ridiculously uncomfortable and/or tiny that it slightly takes away from the experiences. That was not the case at Radio City and the venue definitely won me over. If there is ever the opportunity to go to an event there again, I’d take it.

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Since this show was 11 am on a Tuesday, the majority of the audience was families with young children, which is not my usual crowd. It was kind of fun to watch all the little ones take in the pageantry of their surroundings, while I mentally calculated how much their guardians had dropped on souvenirs to keep them happy. I wound up sitting next to a grandmother and her granddaughter and grandma was thoroughly overwhelmed by having the kid for the day. I think both of them were going down for a nap after the show. Grandma had bitten off more than should could handle.

I had been expecting the show to just be the Rockettes, so I was a little surprised when the show kicked off with singing by both men and women. In retrospect, I guess it makes sense that the Rockettes would need to take breaks for costume changes or just because dancing for 90 minutes is a little unreasonable, but I hadn’t really thought about it. The Rockettes made their appearance soon enough and I have to say that there is something slightly mesmerizing about all that synchronized dancing. It’s like it hypnotizes you or something. I totally got sucked in for the most part; I did think that some of the numbers were a little slow or went on just a bit too long, but overall I was mostly into it.

The show seems to be a mix of old number and new; there is definitely an old-timey feeling to the show, though they do try to liven it up with a brief sequence that employs 3-D. There’s not much of coherent story to the show, just a bunch of different routines that occasionally connect to the other performances. Everyone involved does a really nice job and I have no idea how they are able to do this show several times a day every day. That seems exhausting.

A few of the performances I was slightly familiar with, having seen snippets of them on TV over the years. The routine where the Rockettes are wooden soldiers was one that I recognized, though I wondered if any of the kids in the audience even know what a wooden soldier was. The big finale is all of the soldiers falling down, but man does that take a while to get going. I understand that they have to be very careful in pulling that off, but the first few soldiers falling down takes forever. Once it gets going it’s pretty impressive, but that was a tough minute or so of waiting for things to happen in slow motion.

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I was also vaguely familiar with The Nutcracker scene, which I also enjoyed as I will ever find people dressed up as animals not amusing. I’m not really sure how you make dancing in a bear costume graceful, but they managed to pull it off.

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I also enjoyed the plethora of dancing Santas, but that did not sit well with one kid in our section who was probably a little afraid of jolly old St. Nick. That kid freaked the hell out during that number and had to leave for a while to calm down. That’s understandable; if one Santa makes you uncomfortable, thirty Santas is going to send you right over the edge.

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I was less impressed with the living nativity scene, since not too much happens in that one. I suppose the big payoff is seeing the live camels, but since someone *ahem, mom* told me that was coming before I went to the show, there wasn’t much element of surprise to me. Plus it made me a little uncomfortable that baby Jesus was getting so many applause breaks. I’m not religious and while I totally get that Jesus is the reason for the season, it just was weird given today’s climate that so many people were cheering some of these biblical verses.

The show ran about 90 minutes and we all were quickly ushered out of the theater so that the next group could come in. I was pretty psyched that I choose the 11 am show, since as I was leaving a bunch of school buses were parked outside and a ton of kids were being shepherded into the building. The last place I’d want to be in in the middle of a class field trip, since the adult to child ratio was probably not in my favor.

I enjoyed the experience overall and I’m glad that I can cross the Christmas Spectacular off the old bucket list, but I don’t know if I’d ever need to go see the show again. I don’t think that they change it enough for me to get much more out of it a second time. Maybe if I took a kid with me, but otherwise I think this was a one and done experience for me. Still, it’s a Christmas in New York rite of passage and it afforded me the chance to check out Radio City Music Hall in all its opulent glory. If you can get discounted seats, this would be a great thing to do with a family; full price tickets are probably just too cost prohibitive for most families and while the show was fun, not worth the full face value. Plus I imagine experiencing a Rockettes kick line in person is something that everyone should do once in their life. A fun way to get into the Christmas spirit.

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