The Rockettes Return to Chicago
by elle eichinger
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular and its renowned Rockettes return to Chicago after a three-year hiatus, premiering at the Akoo Theater in Rosemont on December 14, and running through December 30. A handful of debut scenes—including a brand-new finale and two new numbers with Santa—are packed into the performance, along with updated costumes, scenery, and special effects.
For the first time, a 50-foot LED screen sets the scene as Times Square—and later as Santa’s Workshop—in numbers like the brand-new “New York at Christmas.” “Even if you’ve seen the show before, it will be a different experience [this year],” says Emily Blanchard, a Chicago resident and Rockette.
Of course, even with the revamped costumes and displays, it is Blanchard and her 21 fellow Rockettes that remain the showstoppers. Throughout each run of the show, every dancer kicks 300 perfectly precise times, changes her costume seven times (in a swift move almost as choreographed as her onstage performance), and dons 3,000 crystals in the sparkling finale dubbed “Let Christmas Shine.”
Although the ensemble makes it look easy, the show is the result of demanding preparation prior to each Christmas Spectacular season. Blanchard, who teaches fitness classes at the Dailey Method in Chicago during the rest of the year, has spent roughly ten hours each day in the theater since early October preparing. “We learn a new number in a couple days,” she says. “The perfecting [is what] takes a long time. We’re a precision dance company, so we focus on miniscule details: body angling, even the movement of our fingers.”
Two numbers, “The Parade of Wooden Soldiers” and “The Living Nativity,” have been in place since the Spectacular’s inception in 1933. When Blanchard performs the wooden soldier number, she says she really feels like part of a legacy. “Every time we put that soldier costume on, it’s amazing,” she says. “This is a piece of Americana; it’s an honor to be a part of.” This season, Blanchard will don that costume for 34 performances in the show’s two-week Chicago run.
The finale—one of the new scenes—makes for a touching moment that could only be accredited to the outstanding talent on stage and the magical feelings deep-rooted in the holiday season. As the Rockettes dazzle onstage, the audience is invited to join the Radio City Singers chorus in belting out the lyrics to “Joy to the World.” The show may be over once that song ends, but we know the legendary Rockettes are far from their final curtain.
Order tickets ($30-89) via ticketmaster.com or by calling 800-745-3000. Akoo Theater, 5400 N. River Rd.
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