Light Mode

Rockettes Kick Christmas Into High Gear on NBC

Not everyone can be in New York at Christmas time, skating under the Christmas tree and eating sketchy chestnuts from the street vendors who usually sell hot dogs. Those stuck at home either with family obligations or budgetary limitations have never gotten to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular for the past 74 years. All that is about to change.

NBC is broadcasting the Spectacular for the first time for its 75th anniversary. Viewers everywhere will see the high kicking Radio City Rockettes perform their holiday dance numbers. Executive Producer of the show Don Hewitt and Rockette V. Kelly King are here with 12 reasons the TV broadcast, which airs Dec. 1, is just as good as the live show. That’s one reason for each day of Christmas.

Reason #1: At Radio City, You Don’t Get Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira as your dates.
“We consider Meredith an honorary Rockette here because last year Meredith got up on stage and actually kicked with us,” said King. “She went through a whole rehearsal process so we’re very excited that Matt and Meredith are going to be hosting the first special on NBC.” Hewitt added, “They’re in the balcony. First of all, they start out overlooking the grand foyer with people filing in. Then they turn to the camera and say what this is. They sort of take you through the show with bridges occasionally through the piece. Their role is glorious.”

- Advertisement -

Reason #2: The TV version has you out in time for a nightcap.
“It’s amazing how with judicious editing, you can take numbers and take out three or four minutes and lose nothing and get enough stuff in so you feel like you sat through the whole show in an hour,” said Hewitt. “Less commercials, it’s in the neighborhood of 45, 46, 47 minutes but it’s amazing what you can do when you have nine cameras to edit from. Everything just works like a charm.”

Reason #4: This is the best year to see the show anyway.
“I’m excited to be with the show this year because it’s got the most dramatic, reimagined features in the show for 2007, for the 75th celebration,” said King. “We have about 10 costume changes including the brand new dazzling Rockette costumes that you will see on the NBC special, and we have amazing special effects on stage. We have fireworks this year. Santa flies across the great stage. It’s just truly an honor for me to be a part of something so huge this year and we finally are able to bring it into the homes of families all across the nation. I think that is such a proud moment for all of us Rockettes here at Radio City Music Hall, so we’re all very, very excited.”

Reason #5: In person, you might miss something. The camera will make sure you don’t.
“Remember those [old] cameras?” Hewitt recalled. “You couldn’t life one. They wheeled around. Today all the cameras are portable. There are great cameras that even the kids have them. The idea of portability of being able to do a special event today, I remember at the first political campaign I ever covered, which was 1948 in Philadelphia with Harry Truman, I thought we ought to hire some big moving men and put the cameras on their shoulder and guide them around the hall, take them off the wheels. Today, that’s not a problem. They’re very light.”

Reason #6: The televised version is three shows for the price of one.
“[We shot] three performances, then we moved the cameras between performances,” said Hewitt. “As long as there’s tape that looks real and you feel you’re there, there is nobody looking at it who’s going to know that it was either taped or live. You don’t try to pull the wool over their eyes and tell them it’s live, but if you do it well, they’re looking at a live event as captured on HD cameras.”

Reason #7: There’s no language barrier for worldwide audiences.
“It’s universal,” said Hewitt. “It will get the same big audience in London, Paris, Shanghai, Moscow. It’s just got a universal tinge to this whole thing that makes it a one of a kind entertainment.

Reason #8: Even the networks get along at Christmas. CBS let their producer work for the competitor in the spirit of the holidays.
“When Chuck Dolan and I agreed that this was something we should be doing, I took it to CBS,” said Hewitt. “I think Les Moonves felt it was a better match and a better mix with NBC because their headquarters are in Radio City. Radio City is part of the NBC family or their part of their family and the Music Hall is part of the same Radio City complex. It was a better fit for them.”

- Advertisement -

Reason #9: It’s just about time to put this on the air.
“For reasons I never understood, nobody thought of it before,” said Hewitt. “Actually, we were going to do it last Christmas until it dawned on someone, ‘Wait, we’ve got the 75th anniversary coming up. Let’s wait one more Christmas and do it.’ So this thing has been in the back of our minds for a year. Why it was never done before is a mystery to me. It’s like somebody saying, ‘How come nobody’s ever put the SuperBowl on television.”

Reason #10: If you miss it this year, it’ll be back annually like the Charlie Brown special.
“This one is going to be an icon,” said Hewitt. “This is going to be one of those gifts when the DVD is made after the NBC special that I figure is going to sell worldwide. I think that a lot of the numbers will stand. Whether they add a new number here or there to freshen it up, especially now that it’s going to be on television, I think that’s up to them and I think they’re going to make that decision after they see how this plays. I think it could go either way. It could continue to be exactly what it is this year. It could get some numbers to freshen it up. I think that’s a decision that the Radio City production people have yet to make.”

Reason #11: You’ve got to see all the girls’ hard work.
“We started rehearsals for the Christmas Spectacular on September 20th,” said King. “So we went through about six to seven weeks of rehearsal for the show. We have physical therapists on site, sports doctors on site with us. You just take a lot of good care of yourself. You have to watch yourself. You have to be in great condition and great body condition so that is part of our job being Radio City Rockettes. You want to go into your season knowing that you have to be in the best tip top shape. We do about 18 shows a week sometimes. You have to take care of yourself and pace yourself and on your down time, take it easy.”

Reason #12: The Rockettes are hot in any medium.
“Everything else is tinsel around the Rockettes,” said Hewitt. “They’re Americana. The Rockettes are like the West Point cadets. That’s what struck me really. There’s a precision and a rhythm and a beauty to a Rockettes number that is over and above any other dance company anywhere in the world. You talk about Dancing with the Stars, that’s exactly what this has been for 75 years. Audiences come on Christmas to actually sit in seats and dance with the stars.”

- Advertisement -