Posts Tagged ‘Radio City Music Hall’

15 Minutes With Rockette Katie Walker

July 15th, 2016 Comments off

by Ryan Leeds

The Radio City Rockettes in 'New York Spectacular' (Photo courtesy of Madison Square Garden via The Broadway Blog.)

The Radio City Rockettes in ‘New York Spectacular’ (Photo courtesy of Madison Square Garden via The Broadway Blog.)

With approximately 11 shows to perform on a weekly basis, Katie Walker doesn’t find herself with much free time. The North Carolina native, who serves both as a dance captain and performer in the New York Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes, is entering her ninth year with the famous precision dance company.

Best known for the Christmas Spectacular, the Rockettes are currently starring in a summer spectacle that is thrilling audiences and critics alike. This marks the second consecutive year for the non-holiday themed show, which is a splashy love letter to New York. It also heralds a fresh approach for the Rockettes through Emmy Award-winning choreographer Mia Michaels.

Walker recently spoke with the Broadway Blog over the phone to discuss the artistic process and the improved changes she’s noticed since joining the troupe.

Katie Walker (Photo provided by MSG via the Broadway Blog.)

Katie Walker (Photo provided by MSG via the Broadway Blog.)

BB: How long have you been with the Rockettes and how did you land such a coveted gig?

KW: I’ve been with the Rockettes since 2008. The audition process was probably the most intense audition of my life. It’s a two-day process if you make it past the callbacks. There are approximately 500 other girls and you go in 100 at a time. You have about 20 minutes to learn the choreography. Then you perform it three at a time. It’s quick, it’s a lot of pressure, and after you perform it, they will make an initial cut. Then they repeat that process throughout the day. At the end of the day, about 50 dancers are chosen to come back for Day Two where they do it all over again. Then, it’s a waiting game. I auditioned in April and didn’t get the acceptance call until July.

BB: How did the collaboration with Mia Michaels emerge?

KW: We worked with her last year on the opening number (Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York”). We had a little time to work with her on that, but this year [as director and choreographer] we had the chance to work with her every single day. We started pre-production for the show on January 12 and would meet from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. to find the balance between her world and ours. We then called in some of the Rockettes to see how the material would work on a larger scale. Then Karen Keeler, director of the Rockettes creative, Mia and myself would put the formations on paper.

BB: What is one of the major changes you noticed with the New York Spectacular from last year to this year?

KW: The biggest difference is that this year, the Rockettes are featured non-stop. There is one number that we do where we have literally 90 seconds to change costumes and run back on stage. This year, thanks to Mia, the dance has an edgier style. The choreography is much more modern, physical, and contemporary but it still maintains the precision and unity that the Rockettes are known for.

BB: How has the Christmas Spectacular changed?

KW: When I started in 2008, many of the dances had been in the show for years. Over the last few years, they’ve introduced a new number every three years to make it a bit more modern and lyrical. It’s a nice balance between the classic and the contemporary.

BB: There’s a lengthy rain scene in the show in which all of the Rockettes are dancing to “Singin’ in the Rain.” How are you able to get through that with without slipping and sliding?

KW: We have taps at the bottom of our rain boots and sometimes we put tape at the bottom. Even then, the stage and the water will wash it away. We rehearsed that scene so much during technical rehearsals. Because of how the rain falls, we have to change the balance on our feet or the pressure we are putting on the stage.

The Radio City Rockettes (Photo courtesy of Madison Square Garden via The Broadway Blog.)

The Radio City Rockettes (Photo courtesy of Madison Square Garden via The Broadway Blog.)

BB: Is there a favorite scene in the show for you?

KW: I absolutely love the finale, which we call “Radio City New York, New York”. It’s a perfect balance between the traditional and the contemporary. Mia put a modern edge on it and it pushed us away from “being in a box” to giving us the freedom to “just dance it.” Frank Sinatra’s famous song is playing, a backdrop reveals the skyline of New York, and the audience is on its feet. It’s my proudest moment.

BB: How do you maintain your stamina through this process?

KW: Once we start rehearsals, we rehearse six hours a day, six days per week. Other activities like the gym and yoga go by the wayside and the rehearsal itself is really our stamina building activity. There is no downtime aside from a lunch break. After one week, we’re all in great shape for show mode. Now that we are performing, we have a little more free time. We are fortunate to have an athletic training center and gym at Radio City, so when we have long gaps between shows, many of us will run on the treadmill in order to keep our downtime active.

Katie Walker taking a moment on stage at Radio City Music Hall. (Photo: Facebook)

Katie Walker taking a moment on stage at Radio City Music Hall. (Photo: Facebook)

BB: What is the most rewarding aspect of being a Rockette?

KW: One of the most amazing things, in addition to performing, is so much of the outside work we get to do. We are so well known and viewed as a historical icon of New York City. We get to do a ton of community work with children and at children’s hospitals. That interaction on a human level is one of my favorite things about this job. This year, as assistant choreographer, I taught nearly every dance in the show myself. To prepare 41 other Rockettes for a new show that was created for them was a huge moment for me on opening night.

BB: What is the most challenging?

KW: None of it is really hard because it’s a job that we love so much. Even though we have to wake up sometimes at 6 a.m. to do a 9 a.m. show, we don’t mind because we get to have so many cool experiences. The physical wear is probably the most challenging because our muscles get tired and things get sore, but we just push through it and not let it affect our performances.

BB: I imagine after this show wraps on August 7, you’ll start preparation for the Christmas Spectacular?

KW: We will. We’ll have about four weeks off and I hope to visit my family in Elon, North Carolina.

BB: I will spread the word to my fellow cynical New Yorker friends that this show is not just for tourists!

KW: Yes! You’ll leave the show loving New York City!

New York Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes
Radio City Music Hall
1260 Avenue of the Americas at 50th Street
Through August 7

Ryan Leeds is a freelance theater journalist who lives in Manhattan. He is the Chief Theater Critic for Manhattan Digest and a frequent contributor to Dramatics and Teaching Theatre Magazines. Follow him on twitter: @Ry_Runner or on Facebook.


15 Minutes with Douglas Carter Beane

June 23rd, 2016 Comments off

When the curtain rises on opening night this evening at The New York Spectacular starring the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, there will be more than flashy costumes, high-kicking precision dancers, and soaring sets (though there will be plenty of all of that). This season’s incarnation also includes a book by Tony-nominated and Drama Desk Award-winning playwright Douglas Carter Beane.

The Broadway Blog caught up with Beane during the last week of previews as The New York Spectacular found its footing. Here’s what he had to say in our exclusive “15 Minutes With…”

Douglas Carter Beane with the Radio City Rockettes. (Photo courtesy of Madison Square Garden via The Broadway Blog.)

Douglas Carter Beane with the Radio City Rockettes. (Photo courtesy of Madison Square Garden via The Broadway Blog.)

BB: How did this project come to fruition?
DCB: I’ve been living in London for last 10 months—my partner and I said when we had kids we’d spend a year abroad— and we were doing a reading of one of my plays. A Scottish man came up to me afterwards and said, “I’d like to have lunch with you in the next two days.” It happened to be Colin Ingram, the Executive Vice President of Productions for the Madison Square Garden Company. And the rest, shall we say, is history.

BB: How familiar were you with The Rockettes?
DCB: Are you kidding me? I’m from New York. And as for Radio City… as Sinatra used to say, “It’s my favorite room.”

BB: More than a room in this case, it’s my understanding that a lot of the production elements were in place when you came on board?
DCB: Yes. We had all these set and Mia Michaels had been hired as director/choreographer. I looked at the different pieces and thought that I wanted it to be a fable, a sort of an American folk tale—just two kids lost in New York City. It has a Wizard of Oz quality. The numbers and the Rockettes are the stars of the show.

I did Skype meetings with Mia and I flew to New York a couple of times. She has a great background in spectacle—shows in Las Vegas, rock concerts, etc.—her work is filled with joy and eccentricity and a level of sophistication that excited me.

It’s a story of two children on a journey, but I wanted to add a spike to it verbally that’s also in the choreography. It’s Mia’s first time as a director dealing with text. Watching her be intimated and then take control has been a delight.

The Radio City Rockettes in 'New York Spectacular' (Photo courtesy of Madison Square Garden via The Broadway Blog.)

The Radio City Rockettes in ‘New York Spectacular’ (Photo courtesy of Madison Square Garden via The Broadway Blog.)

BB: If anyone can rise to the occasion, it’s Mia Michaels. But the craft of playwriting presents its own challenges. Can you teach someone to be funny?
DCB: Well this particular project is very concise… It’s not a sonnet, it’s a haiku. We’re making big choices and making them known.

It’s a spectacle first and foremost, so we need to create connective tissue with prepared eyes. We want to set up the audience so they’re prepared for what follows. I’ve been doing this for the past 20 years and this show is truly structured like an American musical theater comedy. It’s all there, but it’s hidden, you don’t have to know it’s there. You can relax, I’m a professional, you wouldn’t want an amateur!

BB: Xanadu, Sister Act, Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella—you’ve made a name for adapting material, is there a method to your madness or specific approach to working with pre-existing material?
DCB: I love it. I like the challenge… of challenges. The excitement that comes with you have to do “this, this and this.”

The production has these enormous statues coming to life, and it reminded me of when I walk around the city with my kids, my daughter says hello to Gandhi in Union Square. When they showed me the set with statues, I thought, “I’ve got something to work from here.” And there’s so much inspiration when you’re talking about New York City: Wall Street, Fashion Avenue, it goes on and on.

BB: Any teasers that you can offer us regarding upcoming projects?
DCB: I’ll be directing a musical version of Robin Hood, which I co-wrote with Lewis Flinn. [Hood plays June 29 – August 6, 2017 at Dallas Theater Center.] I’m also working on another project that combines many familiar fairy tales titled Fairy Kings. I’m also in the process of creating something for Alan Cumming. Sometimes what inspires me is what I love is an actor, so I begin to write a show with him in mind.

BB: Given the recent events in Orlando, how important is humor in times like these?
DCB: It was a horrible tragedy. Yet another group is considered separate, and that’s not what America is about. Humor heals us. It shows us the possibility of a better day, and it’s why I’ve chosen to spend my life writing it.

New York Spectacular
Radio City Music Hall
Through August 7

Matthew Wexler is The Broadway Blog’s editor. Follow him on social media at @roodeloo.









Three to See: June

June 2nd, 2016 Comments off

There’s a hush that’s fallen upon Broadway this summer as a number of this year’s musicals have shuttered (so long, Tuck Everlasting, American Psycho, and the soon-to-close Finding Neverland). But there’s still plenty to see this month and we’re casting our net beyond the Great White Way to showcase new and noteworthy productions worth seeking out.

Taming of the ShrewThe Taming of the Shrew
Shakespeare in the Park is back, this time with an all-female production of one of the Bard’s classics. Tony nominated director Phyllida Lloyd directs Cush Jumbo, Janet McTeer in a cast of 15 as they reimagine Shakespeare’s original screwball comedy.

The Taming of the Shrew
The Delecorte Theatre in Central Park
Opening night: June 14 (through June 26)

New York Spectacular

New York Spectacular
There’s nothing quite as iconic in New York City than Radio City Music Hall, and within that legendary venue you’ll find the Radio City Rockettes. This summer’s limited-run production features direction and choreography by Emmy Award winner Mia Michaels and book by Drama Desk Award winner Douglas Carter Beane and promises to showcase the Rockettes as never before.

New York Spectacular
Radio City Music Hall
1260 Avenue of the Americas, NYC
June 15 – August 7

Broadway Bares XXVI
It’s hard to believe that this sexy fundraiser is already in its mid-twenties. This year’s theme, “On Demand,” promises to deliver the best of Broadway stripped down to, well… practically nothing. Proceeds benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS.

Broadway Bares XXVI
Hammerstein Ballroom
311 West 34th Street
June 19
9:30 p.m. / midnight