It’s no secret that we’re living in harrowing times. Trump. Brexit. Floods and fires. Turning on the television (or a quick swipe of your mobile device) can induce a Xanax-worthy anxiety attack. Enter New York Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes, the new eye-popping summer show in residence that will not only lift your spirits, but also put you in the most glorious New York state of mind.
Directed and choreographed by Emmy Award winner Mia Michaels and featuring an original book by Drama Desk Award winner and Tony nominated Douglas Carter Beane, the story follows two siblings Emily (Lilla Crawford/Jenna Ortega) and Jacob (Vincent Crocilla) who get separated from their parents while vacationing in New York City. Emily is your typical sulky tween, while Jacob’s wide-eyed enthusiasm calls forth to life the statue of Mercury (Euan Morton) amid the bustle of Grand Central Station. Mercury sets them on a fantastical journey that includes the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wall Street, the New York Public Library, Central Park, Times Square, Fashion Avenue, and the Empire State Building. Along the way, the inanimate come to life, breathing magical creativity into the children’s journey. As expected, the children are reunited with their parents and all is good in Gotham.
Those familiar with the Rockettes might expect this long-legged precision dance troupe to predictably kick line their way through a few productions numbers in sparkly stockings and tightly pulled buns. Think again. Michaels—whose website portal begins with the quote, “Forgive me if I have only succeeded in entertaining you, I had wished to rile your spirit.”—has put fire in the bellies of the Rockettes. Their energy, first scene in the opening number set to Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York,” is palpable. And it only gets better. From Egyptian Pharaohs to raincoat-clad tappers in a shower of spring rain, each production number (many of which also include a triumphant male dance ensemble) breathes fresh air into a commodity that dates back to 1925. And in a move that feels revolutionary in the hallowed hall, the fashion production number allows each dancer to strut her unique stuff in original couture costumes by designer Emilio Sosa.
Sosa’s work is part of a jaw-dropping creative team that brings New York Spectacular to life, including scenic design by Patrick Fahey, lighting design by Alain Lortie, video & projection design by Moment Factory, and statue design and direction by Matt Acheson. It is only SCK Sound Design’s occasional hiccups that remind one how challenging it must be to project dialogue throughout the 6,000-seat venue. Beane’s script is chock full of ripe one-liners, but many get lost in the echoey hall. Or simply lost by the tourist-heavy crowd, who didn’t seem to catch many of the crafty jabs. But one could hear reassuring pockets of guffaws throughout the cavernous hall, a sign that Beane’s dry humor could also find its way home.
With so many Broadway shows shuttering this summer, visitors and locals alike might be wondering where to turn to for their entertainment fix. Go big or go home. New York Spectacular celebrates the best that the city has to offer.
New York Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes
Radio City Music Hall
Through August 7