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Radio City Rockettes bring unconventional Christmas cheer


The Radio City Rockettes delivered a captivating performance Friday night at the Hobby Center.  |  Courtesy of MSG Entertainment

The Radio City Rockettes delivered a captivating performance on Friday at the Hobby Center.  |  Courtesy of MSG Entertainment

The Radio City Rockettes have a history of perfection, and they stuck to that tradition during their performance in Houston on Friday at the Hobby Center.

The precision dancers maintained unbelievable poise throughout the Christmas Spectacular. The 18-member troupe wore many hats during the 90-minute performance, switching from full-body fur suits and antlers (assuming the roles of Santa’ reindeer, of course) to their iconic rendition of the Nutcracker’s “Wooden Soldiers.”

The message of the performance rang loud and clear: New York City is the best place to spend Christmas, and all who are there should realize how lucky they are. Most of the scenes with Patrick and his little brother, who is trying to convince him to believe in Santa Claus, took place in the Big Apple. Any other reference to New York City, whether in verse or dialogue was nothing but laudatory. It didn’t alienate the Houston audience, though. When you’re going to see a show that’s normally performed at Radio City Music Hall, you need to know what you’re in for.

The Rockettes’ athleticism was impressive, and Santa Claus did a pretty good job as the informal emcee of the night. A short video detailing the rich history of the Rockettes was genuinely entertaining, and it helped me appreciate the world-class grandiosity of the troupe.

While the show’s tradition of precision and perfection remains unchanged, this wasn’t the same Christmas Spectacular that was showing back in the early 2000s. The Rockettes have grown up a bit — if they haven’t grown up, then they’ve certainly adopted some of today’s technology that made the performance noticeably more pixelated.

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Giant stuffed bears and toys were an unexpected whimsical touch, and the young ballerina who played Clara was one of the show’s biggest talents.  |  Courtesy of MSG Entertainment

There was a nearly 3D rendition of a bus ride through Fifth Avenue and Central Park — which, in addition to deviating from the Rockettes’ tried and true formula of maintaining a side-plot with stage characters, was one of their better ventures into uncharted waters. The human-sized teddy bears with Nicki Minaj-esque pouts and pink tutus were downright goofy, drawing positive reactions and intended laughs from the audience. The dancing panda bears, complete with Asian conical hats and kimonos added a nice touch of diversity in an otherwise whitewashed show.

Hard to overlook was the glaring lack of diversity in the troupe. Sure, there were a couple black members of the Rockettes chorus, but the signature troupe was made up of 18 blonde white women, with near identical body shapes. I won’t politicize a Christmas show that isn’t claiming to be anything more than such, and the Rockettes certainly have a history of giving back to the community. But if it was noticeable for a 22-year old white woman, it probably left an impression on any minorities in the audience.

All in all, though, the show delivered what it promised — a Christmas Spectacular that triumphs during the parts its members are most comfortable with. The gravity-defying domino collapse of the “Wooden Soldiers” elicited a roar of applause, and the “Raggedy Ann” Dolls (a new bit, though one founded in tradition) was undeniably endearing. It’s definitely worth the time and the money, and it’s an event for just about anything — family night, date night or just a night to get into the Christmas spirit.

The Rockettes will be performing at the Hobby Center through Dec. 28. Click here to purchase tickets.

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