The Radio City Christmas Spectacular | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular 

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The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, at the Rosemont Theatre. When this touring show first arrived here, in 1994, it seemed strange to head out to Rosemont in order to pretend you were in Manhattan. It seems less so now, if only because this lavish, perfectly preserved Radio City holiday spectacle scants on nothing. At its heart are the eye-popping, precision-dancing Rockettes, cogs in a machine wearing nonstop smiles as they transform themselves into wooden soldiers or pilgrims to Bethlehem.

Because the show will no longer be here every year, this may be your last chance to catch this vintage 90-minute extravaganza, America's iconic equivalent of British panto. The emcee is Santa himself, and included are scenes depicting his toy shop, complete with merry elves (played by six little people); a tiny replica of the Woolman skating rink with actual ice skaters; film of Santa and his reindeer careening over New York skyscrapers; a Nutcracker medley performed by bears; and a version of "Carol of the Bells" with the Rockettes ringing chimes strapped to their backs.

Most remarkable is the Living Nativity, a Radio City Music Hall fixture since 1934. A life-size manger is surrounded by live sheep and camels and a virtual herd of magi and their retinue in elaborate medieval garments, as traditional carols thunder home the good news. You'll either be deeply moved by this costly piety or disgusted by its irrelevant splendor.

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