New York City boasts a number of Christmas traditions, including ice skating and a tree lighting at Rockefeller Center. Also among the annual events is the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
A lavish stage production with over 140 performers, the show dates back to 1933, a year after Radio City Music Hall opened its doors. At the helm were the venue's stage producer Leon Leonidoff and designer Vincente Minelli. Two of the scenes – The Rockettes' Parade of the Wooden Soldiers and The Living Nativity – continue as part of the show to this day.
In 1979, the Music Hall moved away from showing films and focused exclusively on live performances. The Christmas Spectacular followed suit and was bumped up to 90 minutes from 30. Technology and special effects have also been added in over the years, including an 3-D film which opens the show.
The Christmas Spectacular has also made appearances outside of Radio City. Having originated in St. Louis as the Missouri Rockets, the Rockettes ventured all the way to Branson's Grand Palace Theatre in 1994 for the first non-Music Hall performance. Since then, various national touring editions have also been staged.
For the event's 75th anniversary in 2007, a completely re-worked production was put up, designed and choreographed under the Linda Haberman watchful eye. That year's show was filmed and released on DVD.
To prove its mettle as a Christmas tradition, more than one million people see the show each year in New York City.
The updated show opens with the Rockettes performing "Ring Out Those Bells," during which Santa Claus appears. The scene evolves into a 3-D film of Santa in his sleigh en route from the North Pole to New York City. He passes the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building before landing in Radio City Music Hall. Once there, Santa hosts the show.
Musical numbers include "The Twelve Days of Christmas," "The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers,” "New York at Christmas," "I See Santas Everywhere," "Magic Is There," "Ragdolls," "Let Christmas Shine," and "Joy to the World."