Hello, legs: Rockettes rock the JPJ
So who from Charlottesville goes to The Radio City Music Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes? Didn’t the Rockettes perform at the opening of Radio City Music Hall's 1932 opening? Their fan base must be getting on, if not gone on.
Due to my wife’s slavish generosity to Public TV, we were attending the 7pm show (there was another at 4pm) on December 14th–- priced at $51.50 to $61.50–- for free.
As we walked down the hill to the John Paul Jones Arena, I imagined shuffling, shambling hordes of elderly lurching uncertainly towards the Arena, like a scene from a George Romero zombie flick,storming the phalanxes of little buses from the Colonnades and Westminster Canterbury forming barricades in front of the entrances. However, it was a fairly sedentary, ordinary crowd–- except there were loads of children.
The Rockettes are known for their precise ballet-balanced, karate-kicking legs. They were Americas' leggy answer to the Moulin Rouge and the cancan, by way of America's Ziegfield follies. Their audition web page notes they must stand between 5 feet 6 and 5 feet 10 1/2 inches tall, and it warns that “measurements will be taken.” Now we are talking long gams and sturdy hams kicking eye high.
The show started strong, and with the very first synchronized high kick, the audience responded with applause. Then the earnest Radio city singers came out hymning in their naughty catholic school girl Christmas colored plaid skirts, followed by a re-creation of the Nutcracker Suite ballet by dancers concealed in fuzzy animal suits. This nouveau Nutcracker brought giggles from adults and children, particularly the struttings of a coquettish bear in a veil, bikini top, and harem skirt.
All this innocent whimsy was jarred a bit by the presence of the formally dressed yet burly gentleman seated in a folding chair and facing the audience front and center below the stage. He was as unobtrusive as one can be in such a visible position, casually brushing the fake snow collecting on his tailored shoulders, as he methodically scanned the crowd for crazed fans who might be tempted to storm the stage.
My favorite act was the militarily slow-motion toy soldiers, strikingly erect with tall plumed hats, high white pants with suspenders, and marching with mincing steps and forming linear geometric patterns. My wife enjoyed the Raggedy Anne Rockettes with their candy striped stockings.
There was more, too much to detail, perhaps too much to watch. The full-size tour bus rotating in front of the backdrop of New York was fun, as was the cloning of Santas. The show then performed a rather overwrought nativity pageant with marching kings, floating angels, and a radiant Mary. But it all stuttered to an uncertain end with a review of the performers and a final Rockettes quick step.
It seemed the show was trying to serve too many audiences. To appeal to children, the religious, the secular, and appreciators of the healthy female form simultaneously must be difficult. Overall, though, it was a fun spectacle.