Hey, Rocky:
A Review of The Radio City Christmas Spectacular

by Tony Phillips

Why travel all the way to Washington to witness the crumbling wall separating church and state in George Bush’s America? We got a nifty example right here in Gotham as the 75th anniversary edition of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular pulls into the gorgeous Art Deco auditorium through December 30. It is, quite simply, the least secular holiday show in town, on ice or otherwise.

After close to an hour-and-a-half of post-9/11-induced shopping frenzy, tapped out in semaphore, no less, the show makes a giddy about-face for what the program calls "the beautiful and inspiring story of the first Christmas-told reverently in pageantry, music, and scripture." And that’s putting it mildly. Once you get past the live donkeys, camel and sheep, the entire enterprise could have been scripted by Mel Gibson.

So if you’re looking for a generic holiday show, this ain’t it. Jews? Not so much as a dradel. Muslims? Are you kidding? Gays? Well, fortunately, that’s another story. We’ll probably be able to at least snicker through the high camp of the Living Nativity and with more than a half-dozen dazzling Rockettes numbers already under our belts, it’s easy to steel oneself against the high bombast of Mary, Joe & Co.

But oh those tap-tap-tapping Rockettes! Some of the numbers date back to childhood while others are brand-spanking-new. The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers, a routine that’s been around since the 30s, has been dusted-off, but still contains that unforgettable domino fall while The Twelve Days of Christmas, a new number the Rockettes stomp through for seven breathless minutes, reads instant classic. One thing is certain, this 36-strong, all-tapping female troupe has never looked better. And with over 500 pairs of tap shoes stashed backstage, they’re like an Imelda Marcos wet dream.

Given that this is the list-making time of year, here are a few more items: a 40-piece orchestra that hydraulics out of the pit on occasion, twin booming Wurlitzers shaking the house better than any big-room DJ, eight changes for the Rocketttes, 31 dancing cartoon bears, 54 prancing Santas and 2,500 pounds of fake snow, which didn’t fool my three-year-old companion for a second. When it began cascading from the seam across the great hall, she picked up a bit on her finger, narrowed her eyes and exclaimed, "Soap!"

And with 2,500 pounds of the stuff, there should be enough to keep this baby squeaky clean through the New Year.