The Radio City Christmas Spectacular
(© MSG Entertainment)
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular
(© MSG Entertainment)
Of New York City's many wonders, natural and otherwise, few can compare to those dazzlingly leggy dancers known as the Radio City Rockettes. So brava to director and choreographer Linda Habermann for putting them front and center throughout much of the 75th The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, as entertaining a 90 minutes as you're likely to find anywhere in the Big Apple. Indeed, the show is so fast-paced that audience members are barely allowed a second to catch their collective breath.

These lovely ladies show off their particular kick-line skills in the very first number, the smile-inducing "Sleighride," and they're rarely off the stage for too long afterwards -- whether in a clever, tap-oriented arrangement of "The Twelve Days of Christmas," riding in a Gray Line double-decker bus in the enchanting "New York at Christmas" sequence, kicking up a storm as three shelves full of raffish rag dolls in the inventive "Santa's Workshop," or displaying almost military precision in the brilliant "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers," a mainstay of the show for many years.

As a special treat for the show's "diamond anniversary," there's a short film on the history of the troupe -- narrated by another local wonder, Tony Bennett -- which is followed by a beautiful number with the women decked out in sparkly, silvery costumes that truly epitomizes the glamour that is Radio City.

The Rockettes aside, this extravaganza is also chock-a-block with singers, dancers, and even ice skaters, all of whom cavort on gorgeously-colored sets (by Patrick Fahey) and wearing eye-popping costumes (by Frank Krenz). Last year's big innovation, a state-of-the-art L.E.D. screen on stage that projects fantastic images -- from larger-than-life ornaments to twinkling Christmas trees -- remains awe-inspiring (especially the remarkable 3-D ride with Santa as he and the reindeer come into New York City).

But technology isn't everything. Kudos must also go to Charles Edward Hall, who is a truly jovial Santa, the many fine dancers in the charming "Nutcracker" sequence, and the many, many Santas on stage for the smile-inducing "Here Comes Santa Claus" number -- which makes superb use of that L.E.D. screen.

Habermann has also breathed new life into "The Living Nativity," the re-telling of Jesus Christ's birth, that is now the Spectacular's penultimate number. It's now full of beautiful pageantry -- including those famed live camel and sheep -- but doesn't feel too somber or so religious that it may offend non-Christians.

For certain audience members, this Biblical story is what Christmas is really about, but it's hard not to leave Radio City thinking that the holiday is really all about the Rockettes!