Review: Rockettes shine in messy spring homage to New York
NEW YORK (AP) — The “New York Spring Spectacular” has arrived and it’s one show this season that definitely lives up to its name — spec-ta-cu-lar.
There are more than 40 Rockettes, 500 gallons of water falling as rain, live dogs, digital projections, a drone kite, 3-D images — funny cardboard glasses provided — aerial dancing, a film montage, a 26-foot tall animatronic puppet of the Statue of Liberty, a full-size taxi, a huge orchestra and bracelets for everyone in the audience that change color in coordination with the action onstage.
Wait, was that a Minion from the “Despicable Me” movies chasing the Easter Bunny? Yes, stop interrupting. There’s also taped celebrity appearances, T-shirt guns, LED jackets, relentless commercial tie-ins, confetti from the roof, music that ranges from Kander and Ebb to Beyonce, a dead wife resurrected, a show-stopping quiz show in the aisles, and a few Tony Award-winners.
Whew. The show, which opened Thursday at the 6,000-seat Radio City Music Hall, is more than a workout for the dancers — it’s a nonstop, messy, cool, goofy, sloppy wet kiss to New York (and Chase bank, a sponsor, hard to miss).
It follows the story of a powerful businesswoman Jenna (Tony-winner Laura Benanti, wonderfully evil) who buys a small tour company and intends to take it virtual, putting the sweet tour guide (a sad sack Lenny Wolpe) out of a job. “I’m not bossy. I’m the boss,” she trills.
For reasons not entirely clear, God sends down an angel-in-training (Derek Hough of “Dancing With the Stars”) to try to change Jenna’s mind and earn his wings. They fall in love as they tour iconic New York spots like Central Park, Times Square and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which come alive. She learns that human contact is better than a virtual life and is taught this in a show that is as close to a video game as physically possible.
Playwright Joshua Harmon, who wrote the crackling “Bad Jews,” apparently thought up this latest story after watching the films “An Affair to Remember,” ″Night at the Museum,” ″It’s a Wonderful Life,” ″Trading Places” and “City of Angels.”
There are utterly sublime moments — the Rockettes have a strong opening number choreographed by Mia Michaels and then appear later in boots and umbrellas joining Hough and Jared Grimes to tap dance in real rain puddles for an awesome “Singin’ in the Rain.” And kudos for including a celebration of New York’s immigrant roots, a weirdly brave move these days.
The show is best when director and choreographer Warren Carlyle, a Tony-winner, lets Benanti be her funny best and when the Rocketts are let out. There’s a nicely done homage to Fashion Week and a glorious moment when all the Rockettes line up behind Jenna as she waltzes with Hough.
New York sports stars and celebrities from Tina Fey to Michael Strahan have videotaped little clips but the results are often canned and strained. (There’s 100 percent too much Donald Trump, for example, and do we really need Isaac Mizrahi telling us how great New York is?)
In fact, the whole taped-celeb thing goes a little haywire when Whoopi Goldberg, the voice of God, then inexplicably becomes the voice of the Statue of Liberty. (What? Are there any divinity scholars in the house?)
The 90-minute show ends on a high when the Rockettes in canes and top hats dance to “Easter Parade” and “Welcome to New York” and then Benanti joins them for their astonishing, pneumatic high kicks across the massive stage.
But, wait, that’s not the end. Typically overstuffed, the show goes on with one more number featuring the Easter Bunny, a Minion — again, what’s it doing here? — and some massive eggs. Anything for the spec-ta-cu-lar.