Arts & Culture
10 Things You May Not Know About New York Spectacular
The Secrets Behind Radio City's Most Spectacular Show
JPMorgan Chase & Co. is the Marquee Partner level sponsor to the Madison Square Garden Properties and is the presenting Sponsor of the New York Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes.
New York Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes is an impressive immersive experience, thanks to Emmy Award-winning director and choreographer Mia Michaels. While the Radio City Rockettes have been performing on the Great Stage at Radio City Music Hall since 1933, the latest production puts a new twist on their iconic precision choreography and features state-of-the-art technology, contemporary music and dazzling costumes.
Think you know everything about the Rockettes and their performance? Think again. Here are 10 little-known facts....
1. An "A+" Story
The storyline for this season's show was inspired by Drama Desk Award-winningwriter Douglas Carter Beane's daily walks to school with his daughter.
"She always wanted to stop and check in with the statues," he recalls. "There's a statue of Gandhi and one of Abraham Lincoln, and she would look at their faces to see how they're doing. It's like they're the secret guardians of New York just taking care of everybody."
2. No Wardrobe Malfunctions Here
Every costume undergoes rigorous testing before it is considered for use on stage, including dry cleaning, washing and perforation tests. In addition, the wardrobe team does an average of five fittings per costume on each Rockette.
"Multiply that by 36 [Rockettes], and it turns into a long day," says costume designer Emilio Sosa, "but it's pretty amazing to see your designs come to life."
3. What a Glorious Feeling
The rain effect created in the "Singing in the Rain" scene is powered by more than 500 gallons of water that are recycled and cleaned through a filtration system so the water can be reused in each and every show.
In all, 26 nozzles hung high above the stage of Radio City Music Hall are intricately assembled to release the water, which is heated prior to each performance. This simulates a real-life rainstorm—from a light sprinkle to a heavy downpour.
4. Low-Tech Sound Effects Score High Marks
During an early remake session of the music for the "Wall Street" number, music producer/arranger Billy Jay Stein and his team started shaking their own quarters in order to create what would later comprise part of the show's immersive sound experience.
"The next thing you know, we're all in the vocal booth throwing change against the wall," says Stein. When they realized how amazing it sounded, they did it for other songs as well. Listen closely and you may hear team members hitting their chests or impersonating a trumpet blast.
5. Holy Rehearsal Grounds
St. Paul the Apostle Church, located on 59th Street in Manhattan, is home to many of the Rockettes rehearsals. The basement of the church is equipped with mirrors, dressing room areas, and floors just perfect for tapping.
6. "It's Lady Liberty, Mate!"
The real Statue of Liberty may have been a gift from the French, but the 26-foot replica making her grand appearance in New York Spectacular hails from Australia. The high-tech statue was built down under by The Creature Technology Company and traveled for six weeks via ship before its arrival in the Big Apple.
7. Amazing Craftsmanship
Lady Liberty is made from 1,760 pounds of steel and 753 square feet of draped fabric, and features 18 motors in her face alone to mimic human-like facial movements. Her face and robe surfaces were built, stitched and sculpted completely by hand and the fabric was dyed and hand painted to give the illusion of the landmark's original hard copper finish.
8. Physical Puppetry
The Statue of Liberty is controlled both automatically, using pre-programmed cues, and manually by four puppeteers who can move her torso, arms, mouth and face. The puppeteers can twist and tilt her head, move and blink her eyes, lift her eyebrows and make her smile.
9. Lions and Puppetry and Technology... Oh My!
We can thank high-tech puppetry for the life-like movements of Patience and Fortitude, the two lion statues that play an important role in reconnecting the story's family while they're lost in NYC. Two puppeteers—one operating the head, mouth and eyes, the other taking the arm, tail and weight shifts—use video monitors connected to live-feed camera shots that enable them to see the actions of the actors and the other lion on stage.
10. Getting "Bullish" for the Show
The inside of the Wall Street bull, another statue highlight of New York Spectacular, resembles the cockpit of a small airplane, complete with video monitors so the puppeteer can watch the bull's movements and keep track of other performers on stage. And it's more than just maneuvering controls—the puppeteer inside has to use his or her entire body to control the bull's movements.
Gina LaGuardia is a journalist and content director whose work has appeared in BELLA Magazine, ReadersDigest.com, Huffington Post and other publications.