The Rockettes are back and kickier than ever in the 75th-anniversary incarnation of The Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Whatever faults one may find with this awesomely lavish annual pageant, it’s clear that this show has legs. And what legs! In the signature kick line that finds its way into most of the big dance numbers, the Rockettes’ 36 flawless pairs of gams rise and fall like the batting of an eyelash, their perfect unity a testament to the disciplined human form. This is precision dancing on a massive scale—a Busby Berkeley number come to glorious life—and it takes your breath away.
In director-choreographer Linda Haberman’s well-honed retooling of the annual Radio City show, the Rockettes are front and center more than ever before—which is a good thing, as the rest of the evening is less magical (despite eye-popping digital animation that includes a sleigh-ride sequence in 3-D). It’s basically a celebration of the virtues of shopping, with scene after scene depicting Santa Claus and various forms of Christmas present; even the culminating “Living Nativity” episode, a parade of live animals and ornate Middle Eastern costumes, is less about the birth of Jesus than the Three Kings’ bestowal of gifts. (In a gesture of dumbfounding tackiness, the star at the top of the Christmas tree in the “Nutcracker” scene has been replaced with the logo of the show’s main corporate sponsor.) But no one goes to Radio City expecting a genuine religious experience; this is no more, but no less, than a thrilling tour through classic New York glitz. And when the Rockettes emerge for their well-earned curtain call, in a dazzling line of shimmering silver, they’re the best darn tinsel in town.