Deco palace delights again

Radio City Music Hall swings wide its doors after renovation

New Yorkers and visitors from around the world are enjoying an early Christmas present here.

Radio City Music Hall reopened last month after being closed during a seven-month, $70 million restoration project.

"We've put the 'wow' back into Radio City Music Hall," says Edward Micone, executive vice president of Radio City Music Hall.

The renovation of the New York landmark has restored the hall to its former Art Deco grandeur. This includes newly fabricated seats; a re-tuned 4,178-pipe Wurlitzer Organ; and a spruced up neon-lighted marquee. More than 700,000 squares of gold leaf now cover its cavernous ceiling and other areas, and it has been equipped with state-of-the-art sound systems and video technology.

"Every piece of carpeting, wall fabric, and furniture has been reconditioned to look as it did in 1932, when the doors to this national landmark first swung open," says James Dolan, president of Cablevision System Corporation, the music hall's parent company.

The theater's biggest draw is its annual "The Christmas Spectacular," and the 66th edition recently opened a two-month run. It's an elegant, sweetly unpatronizing show. The enthusiasm present throughout the entire production leaps off the stage.

"The Christmas Spectacular" is a series of acts that celebrate some aspect of the Christmas season. These scenes range from the show's traditional Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker" ballet and the "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" (featuring the Radio City Rockettes dancers) to "The Living Nativity," which commemorates the birth of Jesus in a manger.

There are also two wonderful additions to this year's "Spectacular" - "White Christmas in New York" and "Santa's Workshop."

Built 67 years ago with the idea of being an entertainment palace for all income groups, Radio City has presented major entertainment events, from the premire of "Gone with the Wind" to concerts featuring Frank Sinatra, Bette Midler, and Celine Dion, and performances by its own Radio City Rockettes.

Perhaps the best gift of all about the restored hall is the new commitment to an even wider scope and variety of programming. In an interview with the Monitor, Mr. Micone outlined plans for the 67-year-old "Showplace of the Nation":

*Increasing the number of children's shows like "Barney," "Arthur," and "Blue's Clues," and making tickets available earlier. Tickets for performances of these three shows next year are already on sale.

*Presenting more dance extravaganzas like "Riverdance," and co-producing more original shows such as "Dancing on Dangerous Ground," which will have its North American premire at Radio City March 8-12.

*Expanding the number of film festivals (there were two last year) as well as hosting more star-studded movie premires and major awards shows like the Grammys, Tonys, and Emmys.

*A Broadway-bound musical may even have its initial New York run at Radio City.

"My dream is to start a new Broadway musical for several weeks during the summer and then transfer it to a Broadway theater," Micone says. A nationwide touring show built around the Rockettes is also in the planning stages.

"The last touring show we had for the Rockettes was about eight years ago," he says. "We toured a number of cities, and then it's been playing in Las Vegas for the past five years. We want to build a new show around them and let America see them."

*'The Christmas Spectacular' is scheduled to run at Radio City Music Hall through Jan. 5. For more information on the theater's renovation and show schedules and tickets, log on to www.radiocity.com

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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