The Radio City Christmas Spectacular has traveled from Radio City Music Hall in New York to the Akoo Theatre in Rosemont. | AP file photo
RADIO CITY CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR
◆ Through Dec. 30, one times to three times daily except Dec. 25
◆ Akoo Theatre, 3400 River Road, Rosemont
◆ Tickets, $35-$79.50
◆ (800) 745-3000; ticketmaster.com
Updated: January 22, 2013 6:12AM
While Emily Blanchard said she loves being one of New York City’s famed Radio City Rockettes, she admitted getting a bit wistful around Christmastime.
It happens especially when she hears all the songs about being home for the holidays, but she’s likely not wistful this year.
“I’m thrilled to be ‘home’ for Christmas,” the Chicago resident said. “It’ll be the first time in six years.”
The Rockettes are performing their Radio City Christmas Spectacular at Rosemont’s Akoo Theatre 34 times during 17 days through Dec. 30.
They have performed the holiday show 11 times in the Chicago area since 1997, but have toured only other cities since 2008.
The Christmas Spectacular is annually one of the most-watched stage shows in America.
More than 2 million people have seen the show. The audiences are attracted by the Rockettes’ precise, flawless and eye-high kicking dance steps.
Their signature numbers such as the “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” never cease to amaze and awe audiences.
The show always includes sacred as well as secular numbers. The most inspirational is the “Living Nativity” near the finale.
But the Rockettes often change some of the program to keep everyone fresh. This year’s changes are primarily technical.
“For the first time in Chicago we will performing in front of a 50-foot LED screen,” Blanchard said.
“We’ll be riding a double-decker bus that turns and rotates on stage as if it’s going through New York City streets.
“It’s a 3-D effect as if we’re going up Fifth Avenue to Central Park and then to Times Square.”
The show also wraps with a retrospective video that includes a history of the Rockettes.
For 85 years, the Radio City Rockettes have long been among the United States’ most elite dancers.
Some 400 women in the required height range of 5 feet 7 inches to 5 feet 10 inches audition every spring for the few spots that change annually.
“For two days, you have to perform jazz, tap, ballet and even pieces from the show,” Blanchard said.
“For the Christmas show, we start rehearsals in October. It’s really rigorous — six to seven hours a day, six days a week for the entire month.”
The Rockettes perform their regular shows daily at the Rockefeller Center’s famed Radio City Music Hall, which seats almost 6,000 people.
The Akoo Theatre, formerly the Rosemont Theatre, is one of Midwest’s largest performing arts centers with 4,400 seats.
For this Chicago-area holiday run, the Rockettes will perform two to three shows every day except for two days off (Dec. 17 and 25).
The Rockettes also will squeeze in personal charity appearances.
“My family will get to see me on stage more than once,” Blanchard said.
She grew up in Michigan and graduated from Western Michigan University after majoring in dance.
But Blanchard now calls Chicago’s Bucktown neighborhood home when she’s not in New York.
Her parents live in Crystal Lake. She has a sister who is also a Rockette, but is not part of this troupe.
“We also do eight costume changes,” Blanchard said. “The final number is called ‘Let Christmas Shine’ and we come out all in sequins.”
But she said her favorite remains “The March of the Wooden Soldiers” in which all 18 Rockettes each fall down like a row of dominoes.
This writer reviewed the Rockettes’ first Chicago performance of Radio City Christmas Spectacular in 1997.
And this writer concluded that of all the many holiday shows in the area, it was the one most deserving of having the word “spectacular” as part of its title.
Don Snider is a local freelance writer.