by Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom
A little bit of New York City has taken over the stage of the Times Union Center in downtown Jacksonville, as the world-famous Rockettes make their first appearance in River City. The first Christmas Spectacular was in 1933 at Radio City Music Hall and has been a December tradition since that time. I know many Jacksonville residents who have trekked to New York in December to experience the city during the holiday season, and especially to see the Rockettes. (The Dual Critics did it in 2005.) Now, through December 12, you can experience all the color and excitement right here in Jacksonville.
A couple of words of advice before we comment on the show. With twenty-eight performances you have your choice of seeing the show in the daytime or the evening. Each show is exactly the same, so no matter which you attend you will see the same great spectacle. And there isn’t a bad seat in the house. The staging is so expansive that every bit of the stage is used, and no matter where you sit you can see everything. And those seats in the balcony, that might seem far away, offer excellent views because you can see the overall patterns of the choreography. Be sure you arrive in plenty of time to get to your seats. If you go to an 11 am show, it will start exactly on time. Timing is critically important to this production, especially on days when multiple shows are scheduled, because the time between shows is very limited.
You will see seven scenes in the first act, and five in act two. There is a 15 minute intermission. In the first half, the scenes are titled “Sleighride”, “We Need a Little Christmas”, “Santa’s Gonna Rock and Roll”, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, “The Nutcracker: A Little Girl’s Dream”, “ The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” and “Christmas in New York”.
Act II continues with “I’m There”, “Everybody’s Waitin’ for the Man with the Bag”, “Santa’s Workshop”, and “Christmas Dreams”. The show concludes with “The Living Nativity” a re-enactment of the First Christmas that includes lavish costumes, along with live sheep and camels.
You see a lot of those famous Rockettes and their fabulous dancing. Lots of smiles, lots of tapping feet, and lots of high kicks. We were especially impressed with “The Twelve Days of Christmas” at the ladies tapped their way through a contemporary interpretation of the traditional carol. “Christmas in New York” was also impressive, as it included stylized skyscrapers that filled the sky, and again, those fabulous Rockettes spilling out of a taxi and into the street, dressed in red Santa jackets with furry white trim.
In Act II, the peek into Santa’s Workshop was really fun and a real highlight, especially with the dancing bears and rag dolls. My favorite character was a reindeer in Santa’s work shop who explained the audience “I have more frequent flyer miles than the Rockettes have toes!”
Color, color, color everywhere, with changing sets that filled the stage from top to bottom, and over 300 gorgeous and unique costumes, that included, among others, Santa dressed in his finest, accompanied by many, many additional Santas, teddy bears in tutus, and the Rockettes as reindeer and wooden soldiers.
The production has an excellent sound system, so you will be able to hear every song, every note, and every word loud and clear no matter where you are sitting.
Whether you realize or not, you will be seeing probably the best conditioned dancers in the world. Consider that they go full out in their dancing routines for two hours in each show and do four shows on some days.
Don’t miss this chance to see a legendary show. It will really get you into the mood for Christmas and you will walk out of the TU Center with a glow. Call 632-3373 for tickets or check out the website, www.artistseriesjax.org.
RADIO CITY CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR – THE ROCKETTES
by Dick Kerekes & Leisla Sansom