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Explore Christmas Spectacular’s History: The Ultimate Holiday Spectacle

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Radio City Rockettes: Christmas Spectacular - Now on sale!

For close to a century, the Rockettes have held a cherished place as American icons, beyond their countless performances at Radio City Music Hall.

Over the course of 89 years, the Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes has consistently forged enduring memories in New York City, for countless generations of families, cementing its status as a beloved holiday tradition. Join us as we embark on a magical journey through the Radio City Christmas Spectacular's history and the remarkable legacy of the Rockettes.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular

The Origins of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular

The Christmas Spectacular history at the Radio City Music Hall, traces its roots back to the year 1933. This was a pivotal moment in American history, marked by the depths of the Great Depression. In an effort to provide respite and uplift the spirits of New Yorkers during these challenging times, the Radio City Music Hall management conceived a unique and grand holiday show.

Opening its doors on December 27, 1932, Radio City Music Hall had already garnered attention as one of the most magnificent entertainment venues in the country, known for its breathtaking Art Deco architecture and advanced stage technology. It was only fitting that this splendid theater would become the stage for what would become the Christmas Spectacular.

The inaugural Christmas Spectacular, held in 1933, introduced audiences to a dazzling array of performances and holiday-themed segments. While the show has evolved over the decades, it has remained committed to celebrating the magic of the holiday season. In its early years, they shared the stage with 17 diverse acts, among them were the Flying Wallendas, Ray Bolger and Martha Graham.

Post 1972 marked a significant milestone in the show's history with the introduction of live animals into the performance, including camels, sheep, and donkeys. This addition brought an extra layer of enchantment to the Christmas Spectacular's history, allowing audiences to experience a real sense of wonder.

Ever since, the Christmas Spectacular has been remarkable as usual, and today’s show still features beloved favorite numbers, including “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” and the “Living Nativity”, which have been performed since its inception.

The Rockettes: A Legacy of Precision and Grace

Formed in 1925 by Rockettes’ chief choreographer, Russell Markert, the Rockettes were initially known as the "Missouri Rockets". After being such an instat hit in the 1920s, the dance troupe caught the eye of showman S.L. “Roxy” Rothafel in New York city.

Rothafel initially introduced the ensemble as the "Roxyettes", and they made their debut with a performance to the song "With a Feather in Your Cap" on the opening night. However, in 1934, the group underwent a significant transformation, officially adopting the name "Radio City Music Hall Rockettes."

Since then, the internationally renowned dance ensemble, comprising of 36 talented on-stage members each time, has consistently delivered one of the city's most timeless and beloved Christmas extravaganzas, Radio City's Christmas Spectacular. The Rockettes' precision extends beyond dance to the exquisite artistry in their costumes and choreography. Their world-famous "eye-high" kicks, executed with razor-sharp accuracy, have become synonymous with their name and the holiday season. They are a testament to their unwavering dedication to perfection, making them an inseparable part of Christmas Spectacular's history.

Over the years, the Rockettes have had the privilege of performing for esteemed dignitaries and events. They've graced numerous presidential inaugurations, including that of George W. Bush, leaving a lasting impression on the national stage. In addition to their stage performances, the Rockettes have also made appearances on various television broadcasts, such as Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, Super Bowl halftime shows, and popular talk shows, showcasing their versatility as entertainers. The year 2006 saw the introduction of a new technological marvel, the LED-lit costumes, which added a modern touch while preserving the show's timeless appeal.

As the Rockettes continue to shine on the world stage, their legacy endures as a testament to the power of precision and grace. With each high kick and synchronized step, they remind us that excellence in performance is not just an aspiration but a tradition they've proudly upheld for nearly a century.

Radio City Christmas Spectacular Discount Tickets

Magical Moments and Milestones

The Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes has witnessed numerous magical moments and achieved remarkable milestones throughout its storied history:

  • World War II and the Spirit of Unity (1940s): During the tumultuous years of World War II, the Christmas Spectacular played a vital role in boosting morale, both among the troops and civilians. The show's enchanting performances and festive spirit provided a much-needed escape from the challenges of wartime. The Rockettes' precision and grace brought comfort and joy to countless Americans, reminding them of the resilience of the human spirit during trying times.
  • Radio City Music Hall's 50th Anniversary (1980s): In 1982, Bob Jani presented a show at Radio City Music Hall to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The show featured 50 years of Rockettes costumes. The 1980s also saw a series of three television specials called The Night of 100 Stars, which honored the centennial of the Actors' Fund of America. Over 200 famous performers took part, and the specials were all held at Radio City Music Hall. The Rockettes welcomed the audience and danced in the opening number.
  • 3D Technology and Innovation: Under the leadership of Linda Haberman, the first woman named a solo director and choreographer for the troupe in 2006, the Rockettes were introduced to 3D effects. At Radio City, her shows blended dance with cutting-edge technology, incorporating innovative 3D effects. In the case of the New York at Christmas routine, Haberman orchestrated a remarkable setup where the Rockettes performed atop a life-sized double-decker bus, harmonizing their movements with cityscape images seamlessly projected onto a massive 90-foot LED screen.
  • The New York Spring Spectacular (2015): Starting in the 1990s, the Rockettes exclusively graced the stage of Radio City Music Hall during the holiday season, from November to January, for the Christmas Spectacular. However, this tradition took a different turn in the spring of 2015 when the Rockettes took part in an innovative eight-week production called The New York Spring Spectacular, sharing the spotlight with acclaimed performers such as Tony Award-winner Laura Benanti and Derek Hough from Dancing with the Stars.

Fun Facts about Radio City Christmas Spectacular
Fun Facts About Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Why watch Radio City Christmas Spectacular in New York?

Radio City Christmas Spectacular is not just any show: it's part of the Christmas tradition in New York. With more than 140 performers, this is a holiday extravaganza you cannot miss!

Radio City Christmas Spectacular Reviews
Radio City Christmas Spectacular Reviews

A Radio City Christmas Spectacular Review Round-up

Christmas Spectacular is a lively Christmas show featuring the Radio City Rockettes, which is staged at the iconic Radio City Music Hall in New York every year. Find out what reviewers have to say about it!

More Broadway Guides

Apart from Radio City Christmas Spectacular's history, if you're looking for more Broadway information, here are some helpful quick links!

Be sure to check out our guide on the seating plans for Broadway theatres!