Two months after buying our Center Orchestra tickets for the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, the big night had finally rolled around. Michael and I said good-bye to our son, Nick, his wife, Kate, and their two young children. Family, off limits for over two years because of the pandemic, was the real purpose and heart of our visit and we had enjoyed a wonderful weekend with them. The rest of this Sunday evening would belong to us, a bucket list fulfillment that we had added to our trip after we finished the initial planning.
We walked out of the subway at Rockefeller Center into a bigger mass of people than we had expected. Many were family groups and the chatter we picked up in passing told the story.
“Can we go skating, Mom? Can we?”
“When are we going to see the tree?”
“Can I get hot chocolate, too?”
The famous Christmas Tree at Rockefeller Center had just been lit days earlier, the ice rink was newly opened, and department stores glowed with lights that danced to Christmas music piped to the throngs outside. Store windows were showcases of delight, with Christmas scenes and themes abounding. Despite the claustrophobic crowding, everyone seemed cheerful and buoyant.
An abundance of caution over our ability to successfully negotiate the subway system resulted in our arrival two hours before showtime. We discovered the doors wouldn’t even open for another hour.
We hadn’t had dinner, thinking naively that we’d grab something at the venue. That plan quickly went off the rails and our backup plan, eating in a restaurant - any restaurant - clearly wasn’t doable with the queued up crowds waiting for seating. After several blocks of semi-aimless walking, we did what we had to do, buying hot dogs and bottled water from a sidewalk vendor. Even adding sauerkraut couldn’t overcome the insipid taste of a hot dog recently submerged in a pot of hot water, but it was an authentic NYC dining experience!
The crowd-control staff had an excellent plan for crowd containment and management when the time came to open the building’s doors. They directed us to line up along the building, sent minions to check everyone’s vaccine records and ID’s, stamping our hands as proof that we were admit-able and then directed us to form three lines for the three doors leading inside. At those doors, attendants check purses, scanned tickets, and verified stamped hands.
Finally, we made it! The foyer sparkled with lights, including a giant snowflake chandelier, and holiday music wafted over us, although it could barely be heard above the roar of the crowd. I wanted to buy a tee shirt from the assortment of ten designs featured in the shop kiosk, so while Michael went off on his own, I got into another line.
Even with five clerks, the line moved at a sloth’s pace. When my turn arrived, I asked for the cute red tee shirt that I thought was reasonably priced at $20.
“We only have that in Small.”
So I moved up a price point to another snazzy tee shirt at $25.
“We only have that in Small, too.”
Okay, I tried for the cute one on the end for $30.
“Oh, that’s only in youth sizes.”
Gritting my teeth, I pointed to one I liked a lot but, at $40, hadn’t put on my wish list.
“We only have that in Small. Would you like to see it?”
As she held up a tee shirt that would clearly never fit me, I asked if they had any shirts in a large.
“Oh, yes. Those three in the middle,” she said pointing to the dreariest, least Christmas-y clothing in sight.
With a sigh and a no thank you, I went to the meeting spot Michael and I had agreed on. Went is euphemistic. I battled my way through an impenetrable crowd, sometimes stalled in place for minutes at a time, unable to find any opening in the morass of people squashed into the area. When I did get to the spot, I felt like a turnstile. People pushed past me from the front and the back, trying to get to the lines for food, clothing, souvenirs, drinks, and snacks.
Knowing Michael probably had his own crowds to battle, I waited somewhat anxiously for him. Finally, I spotted him. We didn’t know which was our entry door and we couldn’t find any house staff to ask. But we couldn’t make our way to the doors anyway, although we did try to do that twice. Retreating to an out-of-the-way corner near a staircase, we decided to stay put until movement became possible.
The doors finally opened about 20 minutes before showtime and the crowds thinned like water draining from a sink. Many of the people jamming the foyer apparently had seats in the three upper floors. When they all went upstairs, the orchestra level suddenly and blissfully opened up and we found our seats quickly. The blonde woman in front of me wasn’t too tall - yay! - and I settled contentedly into my seat.
A few minutes before curtain up, there was a kerfuffle in that row. The blonde and her date got up and moved so another couple could take those seats. In a flash, I found myself looking at the broad, burly back of a very tall man! I never saw the middle of the stage again. I had to shift left or right to look around him. I probably exasperated the poor people behind me with my bobbing head! This could be chalked up to luck of the draw at the theater except for one detail.
Despite several announcements forbidding filming or picture-taking, as soon as the Rockettes appeared, this guy whipped out his phone and held it up directly in my line of sight!! Now I couldn’t see anything on the right hand side of the stage. Finally, I tapped him on the shoulder and politely told him I couldn’t see because of his phone. Happily, he put the thing away without comment or visible reaction. I’ll admit to worrying a bit about how he might react.
Michael and I saw a lot of people taking videos and photos throughout the performance, including three in the row in front of us. That surprised us because we never see that at dance performance venues in Houston and we go to quite a few. Are Houstonians more polite than New Yorkers? Are they more likely to follow the rules? Who knows, but boy do I appreciate Houston audiences after that experience.
On to the song and dance part of our evening. Fabulous! I expected a dance performance, but it was actually a variety show. The cast sang, danced, told jokes, and performed skits. The eye-popping staging and props kept us riveted. During one piece, the Rockettes performed on a double decker bus that drove an elaborate course around the stage. A stage-sized video tour of NYC played behind the moving bus and the effect looked so real it disoriented me.
Another piece that riveted me was The Twelve Days of Christmas. They didn’t sing, they tap danced! 30 lovely women took the stage and then they featured individuals with special steps for each line of the song. It was festive eye candy and ear candy! Tap dance is a favorite dance form for me and I rarely get to see live performances. There is a video online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKM7W84-cGU
Some of the other works included Wooden Soldiers, Dancing Santas, and Rag Dolls. A few dancers got en pointe for a dance from The Nutcracker that included dancing bears. We also visited Santas’s workshop and in another piece saw it snow. The Nativity scene included a live camel, donkey, and sheep!
The Rockettes Christmas Spectacular wowed me. I am so pleased that we splurged on the tickets (I had trouble pushing that Pay button!!). It’s a shame they had to close early because of the Covid omicron surge. If you ever got a chance to see the Rockettes, don’t miss them!!