Radio City's Christmas Spectacular Turns 76
By Rachel Bowie
Thinking about Christmas year-round might be a bit of a challenge. But for Jonathan Hochwald and the rest of the team behind Radio City Music Hall’s annual Christmas Spectacular, the task is not only a pleasure, it’s a privilege. “We take the word ‘spectacular’ very seriously here,” Hochwald, executive vice president of production for Madison Square Garden Entertainment, explains. “There is literally an army of people who are filled with a lot of pride and a lot of love for what they do working on the show. We seek to outdo ourselves year after year.”
Hochwald’s not kidding. This holiday season marks the Christmas Spectacular’s 76th year on stage. Fresh off the success of the show’s 75th anniversary celebration last year, this season’s iteration does not disappoint.
According to Hochwald, the beauty of the production lies in its rich heritage. “We believe it’s a show that’ll be here 75 years from now and even more,” he says. “Because of this, it’s something that never stops growing and evolving.” One of the show’s biggest changes—a new dance number called “New York at Christmas”— was introduced last year. In it, the Rockettes board an authentic double- decker Gray Line tour bus and go sightseeing in Manhattan during the peak of the holiday season. The Empire State Building, Central Park, Times Square, the store windows on Fifth Avenue—you name it, they visit it. The piece culminates with a live fireworks display on stage. “As much as it’s about Christmas and the Rockettes, it’s also set in Radio City Music Hall and sits right at the hub of Rockefeller Center during the height of a season in which New York feels like the focal point of the world,” says Hochwald.
With 225 performances scheduled for this holiday season, the Christmas Spectacular “doesn’t just appeal to New Yorkers and their guests,” Hochwald says. “It attracts people from around the United States and the world, and holds a place in the hearts of so many different generations. I don’t think there’s another show that can compare.”
The Radio City Christmas Spectacular runs November 7–December 30. For more information, visit radiocitychristmas.com.
Photographs by Paul Kolnik for MSG Entertainment
Cover shoot: May/June 2014 issue of Gotham magazine.