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The Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Dir. John Dietrich. With the Radio City Rockettes. Radio City Music Hall.

Photo: Radio City Entertainment
GET YOUR KICKS The Rockettes go out on a limb.

Say what you will about the Radio City Christmas Spectacular—it's vulgar, sexist, inadvertently blasphemous—but it is truly family entertainment. Kids get candied images of Santa, elves and gifts; dads can ogle scads of leggy dancers; moms can lose themselves in all those gorgeous costumes; even creepy religious aunts can forget their worries by focusing on the Living Nativity, the laughable sop to Christianity that concludes this deeply strange tourist attraction.

RECOMMENDED: See the full guide to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular

For New Yorkers, the Spectacular is worth seeing mainly as a historical curiosity: the Rockettes, those synchronized chorines with frozen smiles and silken gams, represent a theatrical tradition that goes back to the 1920s heyday of Florenz Ziegfeld and vaudeville. In fact, winking references to cell phones and the Internet aside, the show remains a bona fide vaudeville specimen. It begins with a computer-animation 3-D short film of Santa Claus zipping around the New York skyline before touching down in front of the theater, moves on to a series of eye-popping song-and-dance set pieces inspired by The Nutcracker, Macy's window display and Santa's North Pole workshop, and concludes with the aforementioned Nativity—which is about as biblical as Charlton Heston in a fake beard. But who cares? The Rockettes are a breathtaking precision-dance act, and there's something charmingly insane about a show that focuses with equal seriousness on the birth of Christ and 36 women dressed up like wooden toy soldiers.—David Cote