“It has been said of the new Music Hall that
it needs no performers.”
—one critic’s assessment at the 1932 opening
of Radio City Music Hall
Like a March weather lion “The New York Spring Spectacular” has roared into Radio City Music Hall. This whirlwind musical revue moves through the City that Never Sleeps with gusto! Starring the Rockettes and featuring Tony-Award winner Laura Benanti, and Emmy-Award winner Derek Hough, this spectacle plays through May 3rd. The revue’s emphasis is on the New York side of the title. Spring gets a nod or two with a few brief appearances by a dancing Easter bunny, and a finale that features Irving Berlin’s “Easter Parade.” The spectacular bit of the title gets the lion’s share of attention.
With imposing sets that combine digital video and traditional scenery to recreate, with remarkable believability, all the must-see sights on a first-timer’s tour of the Big Apple are included. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art to Central Park to the Statue of Liberty to Times Square to Grand Central Terminal, this tour is the basis for the revue’s plot, which goes as follows. Jack, played by Mr. Hough, is an angel come to Earth to perform a good deed, on orders from God, so he can earn his wings (the plot takes more than a bit of inspiration from It’s a Wonderful Life). Bernie, portrayed by Lenny Wolpe, is a friendly, old fellow with a small tourist guiding business. Miss Benanti’s character Jenna, a hard-as-nails businesswoman, buys Bernie’s business; her intention is to create a virtual tour of the city, eliminating the need for real-life Bernie. Enter Jack with his idea; Bernie takes Jenna on a tour of New York that will convince her to change her plan, thus saving Bernie’s business.
At the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Temple of Dendur, the Rockettes strike hieroglyphic poses wearing Egyptian costumes. While in Central Park, they dance to “Singin’ in the Rain;” Mr. Hough takes the Gene Kelly role, tap, tap tapping away in an on-stage downpour. At the top of the Empire State Building, Jenna and Jack get romantic in a ballroom-dancing number to the strains of “The Way You Look Tonight.” Because the Rockettes are all about dancing, Jenna is reminded of her childhood aspirations to be a dancer and sings “I Could Have Danced All Night,” helping to show off Miss Benanti’s clear-as-a-bell soprano. It would not be a tribute to the New York without Kander and Ebb’s “New York, New York.”
New York celebrities make either video or audio appearances. Whoopi Goldberg voices Lady Liberty and God; while Tina Fey and Amy Poehler lend their own brand of humor to Patience and Fortitude, the lions outside the New York Public Library. These huge talking and moving figures are impressive. By way of HD video, numerous New York luminaries, ranging from local major-league baseball, basketball and hockey players to Diane von Furstenberg to Donald Trump, figure into the action, if only virtually.
Radio City is the final stop on this good-deed tour. It is where the tale of Jack and Jenna and Bernie reaches a resolution, all to the good. This is a family show with a happy ending, everyone smiling, especially the Rockettes, whose precision-drilled dancing keeps alive a style of entertainment that would otherwise be lost. They never fail to delight. A big grin settles on your face when the girls get together for their high-kick line, every toe reaching that exact invisible line in the air. This is popular entertainment, not high culture or even great theater. Do not over think it. The Rockettes are why we really go, are they not? Just to be in that wonderful Radio City Musical Hall theater is a thrill. Go see the New York Spring Spectacular and Radio City Musical Hall!