Powered by Google
Editors' Picks
Arts + Books
Rec Room
- - - - - - - - - - - -
Adult Personals
Adult Classifieds
- - - - - - - - - - - -
FNX Radio
Band Guide
MassWeb Printing
- - - - - - - - - - - -
About Us
Contact Us
Advertise With Us
Work For Us
RSS Feeds
- - - - - - - - - - - -

sponsored links
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Sex Toys - Adult  DVDs - Sexy  Lingerie

  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

Snow job; growing pains
The Rockettes at the Wang, The Nutcracker at the Colonial
Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes
Director and choreographer Linda Haberman. Musical director Mark Hummel. Sets by Patrick Fahey. Costumes by Gregg Barnes and Pete Menefee. Lighting by David Agress. Sound by Daniel Gerhard. Original music by Mark Hummel and Billy Strich. Book and original lyrics by Mark Waldrop. At the Wang Theatre through December 31.
The Nutcracker
Music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Choreography by Mikko Nissinen. Sets by Walt Spangler. Lighting by Pierre Lavoie. Costumes by David Walker and Charles Heightchew. With the Boston Ballet Orchestra conducted by Jonathan McPhee and Mark Churchill. At the Colonial Theatre through December 31.

My first encounter with the Rockettes was in 1958, on a high-school trip to see The Brothers Karamazov at Radio City. The movie, with Yul Brynner as Dmitri, Claire Bloom as Katerina, and, yes, William Shatner as Alexei, made a bigger impression; the Rockettes weren’t so different from the June Taylor Dancers on The Jackie Gleason Show. My other visit to Radio City was in 1994, for The Lion King; the Rockettes were the high-kicking cutlery in "Be Our Guest," from Beauty and the Beast. They were fun to watch, but it never occurred to me to go see their Radio City Christmas Spectacular Starring the Rockettes, or even wonder what was in it besides the Rockettes.

Now a touring version of the Christmas Spectacular has come to Boston, replacing Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker at the Wang Theatre, and the good news is that these touring "Rockettes" hold up their end. They open the show as Santa’s reindeer in "We Wish You a Merry Christmas"; clad in daffodil yellow, they tap their way through an extended "Twelve Days of Christmas" with some ethnic (Oriental, Scottish) variations; they do the trademark "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers"; wearing Santa tops, they emerge from a Checker taxicab for a "Happy Holidays" shopping medley; and as Santa’s rag dolls, in orange wigs with huge green bows, they play with blocks and serve up a petit can-can that concludes with the traditional down-the-line series of splits. Not everyone got down to the floor at one go, and in memory, at least, the 1958 Rockettes kicked a little higher and wiggled their fannies a little less. Tapping apart, these ladies do more strutting and shimmying than dancing, but their ensemble is worthy of Radio City.

The bad news is that the rest of the show is dominated by a "hip" St. Nick who after his DOA "Santa’s Gonna Rock and Roll" assures us, "I love Boston. The Freedom Trail. The lights on Newbury Street. And how about that early Christmas present, a world championship from the Red Sox!" He drones on about finding just the right present and making children’s dreams come true; he asks a simpering Mrs. Claus, "What are you doing New Year’s Eve?" The "original" music and lyrics for these segments make "We Need a Little Christmas" sound like the "Hallelujah" Chorus. We also get anonymous production numbers that look like those Miss America Pageant interludes, all Technicolor costumes and smiles and by-the-numbers choreography. As for the little girl who’s "selected" to come up from the audience and then turns into Clara in the Trockadero-silly Nutcracker parody, you don’t need to wonder whether she’s a plant — her name is in the program. The parody has its moments: the Tea number done by three giant pandas in lime-green jackets and coolie hats with holes to accommodate their ears is the best non-Rockette moment in the show. The worst is the concluding "Living Nativity," in which Middle Eastern potentates honor the infant Jesus with their presents (always presents) while a sententious off-stage voice reads from a scroll-shaped screen: "All the armies that ever marched and all the navies that ever sailed and all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as this ‘One Solitary Life.’ " Moses, Muhammad, Buddha, move over. The program tells us that this presentation of the "Living Nativity" "upholds a tradition begun by St. Francis of Assisi in 1223 and has been a revered part of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular since 1933." St. Francis, who left a wealthy family and took a vow of poverty, would gag at this travesty. As for Jesus, the story of the moneylenders in the temple comes to mind.

The house at the 5 p.m. show I attended last Saturday looked close to full. Of course, if The Nutcracker were on TV opposite the Rockettes, you know which one people would watch. And in the wake of September 11, maybe it’s not surprising that we’re desperate to turn the clock back to the verities of Bing Crosby’s America, when a "White Christmas" could make everybody’s days merry and bright. What is surprising is that Bostonians are paying big bucks for canned music, canned jokes, canned choreography, canned smiles, and phony Christianity. For years, critics of Boston Ballet’s Nutcracker complained that it was too schlocky. Now it seems that, at least in terms of drawing audiences, it wasn’t schlocky enough.

page 1  page 2 

Issue Date: December 10 - 16, 2004
Back to the Dance table of contents
  E-Mail This Article to a Friend

about the phoenix |  advertising info |  Webmaster |  work for us
Copyright © 2005 Phoenix Media/Communications Group