No building in New York City—maybe the United States—is more closely identified with a single entertainment event or house act than Radio City Music Hall. When you think of Radio City, you think of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular and the Rockettes.
Tall, statuesque and beautiful, the Rockettes have entertained hundreds of millions since leg-kicking their way through the first Christmas Spectacular in 1933. Their precision dance steps, set to beloved holiday classics, are heartwarming. Their signature eye-high synchronized chorus line kick is spine-tingling.
If you’re planning a November or December trip to NYC and enjoy all-around entertainment, the show is a must. More than 200 different performances of the 90-minute production are scheduled every year from mid-November through the end of December and the first weekend of January, as many as six in a single day. The handful of off days do not include Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Even on those holidays, the show goes on as usual. It’s important to note, though, that seat prices traditionally rise from Thanksgiving Day on.
You can learn more, and even buy tickets, at www.radiocitychristmas.com. You also can buy in person at the Radio City box office (1260 Sixth Ave., between 50th and 51st streets) or by calling 1-866-858-0007.
Are you surprised to learn that the Rockettes originated before Radio City Music Hall was built? It might surprise you more to learn their roots aren’t even in New York City but the Midwest.
How ‘A Night at the Opera’ became ‘A Chorus Line’
The Rockettes were created by a choreographer named Russell Markert in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1925. Markert had set out to form an American version of an internationally popular British precision dance troupe known as the Tiller Girls.
Originally known as the Missouri Rockets, Markert’s dancers were discovered and brought to New York in 1927 by New York impresario and movie theater owner Samuel “Roxy” Rothafel. Markert went with them and remained their choreographer and director until he retired in 1971.
In New York, the dancers performed at Rothafel’s Roxy Theater—as the Roxyettes—until Rothafel signed on with John D. Rockefeller in the largest private redevelopment endeavor the United States had ever seen.
Rockefeller originally conceived his plan—tearing up 12 acres in seedy Midtown Manhattan and building a world-class culture and business hub—before the Great Depression. The project was to include a spectacular new home for the Metropolitan Opera. When the stock market crash in 1929 collapsed Rockefeller’s plans to assemble syndicate financing for his project, Rockefeller went forward with it alone. The intended opera house instead became an entertainment venue intended for everyday people. Rothafel’s added clout—and genius for showmanship—ensured success.
Radio City Music Hall opened December 27, 1932. That night the Rockettes shared the playbill with almost 20 other acts including the Flying Wallendas. By the next Christmas, though, they were headlining a show of their own that would mature into a national treasure.
And while advances in technology enable the show to evolve dynamically, surpassing creative boundaries once unassailable, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular never loses its fundamental respect for the Nativity Story and centuries of meaningful holiday traditions.
Also nowadays, a second set of 36 Rockettes hits selected cities every year for a traveling version of Radio City Christmas Spectacular. But there’s still no better place to see this show than on the grand stage it made famous. There’s no better way to “kick” off the holidays.