The program for The Radio City Christmas Spectacular encloses a folded pair of paper 3-D glasses; this novelty item comes in handy for a computer-animated sequence involving Santa Claus flying high above New York City on his reindeer-pulled sleigh, presents tumbling out of his capacious sack and, illusorily, into spectators’ laps. If only the rest of this opulent 90-minute holiday revue had been visually engineered for 3-D. Each Rockettes kick line would be like having the dancers’ thighs grazing your cheeks! And the Living Nativity! You could reach out and just caress the ersatz, vulgar piety coming off the stage.
Maybe that’s asking too much self-awareness from this crass confluence of commercialism, McChristianity and family-friendly cheesecake. The Spectacular is a New York institution, meaning that true Gothamites avoid it like the plague. Tourists, of course, are eager to savor the Broadway-level scenery, orchestral music and impressive precision moves of the Rockettes—surely the finest representation of female beauty you’ll find outside of a Long Island City gentlemen’s club. If several dozen synchronized cuties in short dresses don’t float your boat, then there’s a vaudeville Santa; his nutty elves (played by six grateful dwarves); an adorable, condensed Nutcracker danced by actors in bear costumes; and, oh, something about a Middle Eastern kid born in a barn. That bit comes at the end, and it’s a good time to take off and beat the crowds. — David Cote