Sunday, March 29, 2015

Review: New York Spring Spectacular with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall

The Rockettes. Photo:  Courtesy of Madison Square Garden Entertainment

New York Spring Spectacular

Starring Laura Benanti and Derek Hough
and The Rockettes
Radio City Music Hall
Through May 3

What's It All About?

It's the next evolution of “Spectaculars” at Radio City Music Hall which began in the 1930, featuring the Rockettes, those high-kicking, precision dancers. Their Christmas Spectacular is a New York tradition, but this show, co-created by Diane Paulis (Pippin, Hair) and producer/playwright Randy Weiner has a script by  Joshuah Harmon (Bad Jews) and is directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle (A Christmas Story; After Midnight). This show gives the Easter Bunny some equal time.

The show stars  Broadway's talented Laura Benanti (Women on the Verge) and Derek Hough (the only five-time champion on TV's "Dancing With the Stars" as well as Lenny Wolpe, Jared Grimes, the Rockettes and features the voices of Whoopi Goldberg, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Bella Thorne. Making cameos (via video) are 50 Cent, Carmelo Anthony, Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Walt Frazier, John Leguizamo, Henrik Lundqvist, Al Michaels, Kelly Ripa, Mariano Rivera, Sam Rosen and Donald Trump.

The story follows an old-time tour guide, Bernie (Wolpe) who is being replaced by virtual tours created by a company run by Jenna (Benanti). Meanwhile, a sort of angel named Jack (Hough) drops in to see whether he can help bernie keep his job -- while earning his own wings if he succeeds. Grimes is Jenna's sidekick, Marshall.

The folks take a tour of some of New York's greatest landmarks, like Grand Central Station, the Statue of Liberty, the New York Public Library, Central Park, Times Square, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Fashion District and sporting venues which come to life -- some quite literally at times -- thanks to video projections (designed by Batwin and Robin Productions) and puppetry (Matt Acheson and Eric Novak). Audience members are given 3-D glasses for viewing one of the videos and wrist bands which light up at certain parts of the performance.

Costumes are designed by Esosa, Diane von Furstenberg, Isaac Mizrahi and Zac Posen. Mia Michaels (TV's "So You Think You Can Dance") is the choreographer of the opening number.

The soundtrack includes classics and pop hits, including Taylor Swift's "Welcome to New York," as well as original songs by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy. Here's how the press materials bill it:
"New York Spring Spectacular is as rejuvenating, energetic and uplifting as spring itself - and a reminder that while things may change, nothing can take away the timeless magic
and romance of the one and only New York City!"

The theme given is that this group of people will be forever changed and will never look at the city the same way again.

What Are the Highlights?
The Rockettes always are a treat. The "Singing in the Rain" number is particularly pleasing with a light shower increasing to a thunderstorm with more than 500 gallons of water gushing from 26 nozzles hung above the stage. Loved the paintings at the Met coming to life.

I also chuckled at what easily was the most enjoyable part of the script -- banter between Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as they provided the voices of Patience and Fortitude, the two New York Public Library lions, (with two puppeteers located inside the platform under each lion to bring it to life.)  Benanti brings her usual droll delivery to the dialogue and sings a lovely rendition of "I Could Have Danced All Night." Veteran Wolpe brings some grounding to the crazy story and we get to see some of Grimes' fancy foot work.

This is a great show for tourists. If you never have been to the Big Apple, or you are hosting folks who will be wide-eyed at the grandness of Radio City, and Patrick Fahey's super large sets, get your tickets now. You can beat the crowds, avoid inclement weather, forget overstuffed subways and just give them a tour of the city without ever leaving your seats.

What Are the Lowlights?
The sappy story left me wanting a bit more. Overall, the show was entertaining, but didn't strike me as super interesting for younger kids, even with the Easter Bunny making an appearance. The Statue of Liberty puppet (voiced by Goldberg) looks a little creepy (it features 20 motors to mimic human face movements. Maybe it's just too life-like?) The 3-D glasses and flashing wrist bands seemed rather unnecessary.

More information:
90 minutes no intermission. Ladies, DO NOT attempt to use the rest room. By the time you make it through the TSA-like inspection of your bags at the door, find your way to your seat and get in line, it already will be all the way up the stairs and across the upper level. The line does move faster than you would think, but just be prepared. Start on the second level and don't listen to the ushers giving directions......

Check out exclusive New York Spring Spectacular behind-the-scenes photos, videos and interviews at Tickets range from $50 - $150, depending on show date and time:; 866-858-0007; Box Office (50th Street and Avenue of the Americas). Group tickets of 9+ contact 212-465-6080 or Box Office hours are daily, 10 am  to 8 pm. Tickets purchased via Ticketmaster are subject to service charges.

Christians might also like to know:
-- Just the whole angel earning his wings thing. No content notes.
Laura Benanti and Derek Hough. Photo: Courtesy of Madison Square Garden Entertainment

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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