Why do we go to the theater? To learn? To be inspired? To infuse our eyes and our minds with culture and history? Yes. Yes. And yes. Nevertheless, deep down, beyond the pretension, the academia, and the commentary, what is at the essence of why we attend a performance? To escape. To have, for an hour or two, the divine pleasure of slipping into another world, another life—one where your problems, your hopes, your daily duties are null and void, and for one small moment, it is acceptable, and expected, to abdicate your own life for the sake of immersing yourself in someone else’s. When have we needed an escape—a fantasy—more than now?
The Radio City Rockettes are still queens of the New York stage, but the rest of the show is more spectacle than “Spectacular.” Less the opulent, exclusive hall it once was, Radio City has become a kind of megalopolis for the moving image. With a feel more like movie theater than performance hall, children laughed and shouted in delight, parents ran in and out of the orchestra, their limbs a balancing act of popcorn and 3-D glasses and adults balanced glow-in-the-dark martini glasses on glossy programs. Dazzling precision dance numbers were weakly strung together by a jolly Santa leading two boys on a quest to discover the true meaning of Christmas, punctuated by overworked show-tunes and canned ensemble choreography.
The savior of the show was the toy soldier number, in which miles of legs and smiles in top-hats and suspenders march with military-precision in geometric formations around the stage, tottering hip to hip, toe-to-toe, bearing an uncanny likeness to an army of miniature militia come to life. In a true test of skill and strength, the soldiers face a firing squad in single-file, catching one another in a slow-motion domino fall across the stage that is as exciting to watch, as it is difficult to accomplish. Frame story aside, there is no question that these ladies are well-trained, technically superior dancers.
If you long for the glitz and glamour of the 1930s, stay home and watch old-Hollywood films. However, if you’re just looking for good, old-fashioned fun, a place to take your kids or have always wanted to see those high-kicking legs in action, The Radio City Rockettes are still worth a gander. It is an escape. A little bit of fancy. And sometimes, that’s all one needs.