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Radio City Rockettes rock in Seattle
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Radio City Rockettes rock in Seattle

by Eric Andrews-Katz - SGN Contributing Writer

Radio City
Christmas Spectacular
Paramount Theatre
Through January 3


New York City's Radio City Music Hall has presented many acts since opening, perhaps none so famous as The Rockettes. This line of 22 talented, high-kicking women arrived at the Paramount Theatre and they did so with style. Opening night, the team arrived on Seattle's "Duck," with a Marine escort and chaired a Toys for Tots campaign in the theater's lobby. What followed was exactly what their title boasted: a Radio City Christmas spectacular.

The evening started with Seattle Mariners sportscaster Dave Niehaus sitting center stage in an overstuffed chair, surrounded by several young children. He began reading A Visit From St. Nicholas. When he finished, the stage cleared and the lights dimmed. For just under two hours (including intermission), 12 scenes of Christmas were played out before us.

Serving as host and narrator, Santa Claus begins his Seattle-bound journey from the North Pole. His arrival sparked song and dance from a chorus of talented dancers, including several size-appropriate "elves." When Santa hung out the stockings, the audience was treated to several shapely legs which heralded the appearance of the Rockette angels. These women know what their audiences expect of them and they deliver. Dancing out "The Twelve Days of Christmas" through the precision tap they are known for, the Rockettes did a wonderful job. The show continued with a salute to The Nutcracker and a Parade of the Wooden Soldiers. Act One ended with homage paid to New York City itself, and the full team of Rockettes leaped out of a taxi cab and high-kicked their way across the stage.

Act Two revolved around Santa, his helpers, and the toys they make. The Rockettes appeared at different points throughout the show, including as a team of ragdolls that come to life. The final scene dealt with "One Solitary Life," the story of Jesus' birth and death, and ended with a scene of the living nativity. While the scene can make non-Christian audience members a little uncomfortable, they can easily become lost in the beauty of the presentation. Although reminiscent of "Pride Rock" (complete with live camels and sheep), this was beautifully staged. The lighting was set in muted tones and the music was soothing enough to make even the meanest of Grinches reflect on the theological meaning of what this season is supposed to represent.

To say that the Radio City Christmas Spectacular has targeted a "family audience" is highly understated. If you are looking for a deeply significant meaning to the season, then this show is definitely not for you. Like a light snowfall, this show is fluffy and doesn't hold a lot of substance. But, like that same snowfall, snuggled down in a comfortable seat, it's a pure delight to watch. And who couldn't use a little winter wonderland?

The Rockettes return to the Paramount Theatre after their Seattle premier in 2003. Performing twice daily (except Mondays) and up to four shows a day on the weekends, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular also offers a 1 p.m. matinee on both Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. The Toys for Tots drive will continue throughout the Seattle run. Only two other guests are scheduled at this time to open the show with a reading of A Visit From St. Nicholas, including Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.

Originally appearing at the opening of Radio City Music Hall in 1932, the Rockettes debuted in 1925 in St. Louis as the "Missouri Rockets." Founding father Russell Market always referred to them as his "dancing daughters." Their name changed when they were brought to NYC by the showman S.L. "Roxy" Rothafel, who began calling them his "Roxyettes."

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