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Originally published Monday, December 14, 2009 at 7:00 PM

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Radio City Christmas Spectacular: It's Rockette science

A review of the touring production of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, which continues through Jan. 3 at Seattle's Paramount Theatre. The Rockettes and their immaculately rehearsed precision kickline are the highlights of the show.

Seattle Times arts writer

Additional performances

Radio City Christmas Spectacular

Through Jan. 3, Paramount Theatre, 911 Pine St., Seattle; $25-$125 (800-982-ARTS or www.stgpresents.org).

Performance review |

When a show begins with 18 dancing reindeer, all lovely young women clad in sparkly leggings, waistcoats and antlers that light up like little Christmas trees, you know immediately what you're in for — and it's not subtlety. But it is a lot of fun. The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, starring the fabulously leggy Rockettes, is at the Paramount for a three-week run, and it would take the most committed of Grinches to resist this show's unique charms.

The Rockettes' traditional holiday show has been around since 1933 at New York's Radio City Music Hall, with a couple of numbers performed unchanged, including the delightful "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" and the lavish "Living Nativity," complete with actual sheep (one of whom was heard raising a voice in song) and camels, that closes the show. The troupe's meticulously rehearsed precision dancing is a genuine pleasure to watch, and its trademark eye-high kickline brought cheers from the opening-night crowd.

That said, the show has its weak spots, which occur pretty much every time the Rockettes leave the stage. It's a challenging problem: The Rockettes are the main attraction, and part of their appeal is their elaborate costumes (designed, with much color and wit, by Gregg Barnes and Pete Menefee), which don't change themselves. So, eight complete costume changes means that the show has a lot of gaps, filled by a desperately vamping Santa (Scott Willis), Mrs. Claus (Crista Moore, who sang a nicely jazzy "Everybody's Waitin' for the Man with the Bag"), and a team of brightly smiling singer/dancers trying hard to make us forget that they aren't Rockettes. And, considering the high ticket prices, it's disappointing that all of the music and some of the singing is obviously taped.

But when the Rockettes are on stage, you forget the problems and just enjoy the over-the-top, nostalgic entertainment: the marvelous domino-like fall in "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" (and that number's uncannily perfect marching formations); the charm of a chorus line made up of floppy-haired rag dolls in flowered smock dresses; the red-sequined sparkle of the "Christmas in New York" number; the whirl of Rockettes in blue-and-silver dresses as glittery snow fell. Though the show ends rather abruptly after the Living Nativity (perhaps rightly so; you can't help wondering if some Rockettes are going to pop by Bethlehem and do a kickline for the Baby Jesus), it sends its audience into the chilly streets with warm holiday spirit.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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