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The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is an annual musical holiday stage show presented at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The 90-minute show features more than 140 performers and an original musical score, and combines singing, dancing and humor with traditional scenes. The star performers are the women’s precision dance troupe the Rockettes. Since the first version was presented in 1933, the show has become a New York Christmas tradition.


The Radio City Music Hall Christmas Show began in 1933 when the Music Hall presented lavish live stage shows along with the latest Hollywood feature films. The first Christmas show was produced December 21, 1933, along with the RKO musical movie Flying Down to Rio and The Night Before Christmas, a Walt Disney Silly Symphony, and ran for two weeks. This was just one year after the opening of the Music Hall in 1932. The show was created by the Music Hall’s stage producer Leon Leonidoff and designer Vincente Minnelli. It consisted of an overture with Erno Rapee and the Radio City Symphony; a solo on the Mighty Wurlitzer Organ; a performance by Jan Peerce; a Toy Shop Ballet; The Rockettes’ performance of “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers”, choreographed by their founder, Russell Markert; and “The Living Nativity”. These last two scenes have continued in every edition of the annual show up to the present day. The Christmas show, like all the Radio City stage shows, continued to be produced and choreographed by Leonidoff and Markert through the early decades of the Music Hall’s history. Later, Peter Gennaro and others produced the annual show. 

After the Music Hall ceased showing feature films, the Christmas show was transformed from a 30-minute stage feature into a standalone 90-minute show. It incorporated many new scenes and additional acts have since been added regularly.

In 2007, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Christmas show, an entirely new edition of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular was updated, designed and choreographed under the direction of Linda Haberman. For a brief time it was one of the few shows playing in New York in December, 2007, during a strike which closed most Broadway theaters. This edition of the show was filmed and has been released on DVD. 

In 2011, the show was titled The Rockettes Magical Journey. The production featured an updated 3DLIVE scene and new musical numbers in addition to the Parade of Wooden Soldiers and the Living Nativity. The 2011 program’s story focused on the Rockettes as they traveled through the Northern Forest to the castle of the Humbug King who had stolen toys from Santa Claus’ workshop. In 2012, a slightly altered version was titled The Rockettes Celebration!, celebrating the 85th anniversary of the Rockettes and the 80th anniversary of the Christmas Spectacular with a brand new scene. In 2013 a new finale entitled “Snow” replaced “Let Christmas Shine.”


In a snow-filled forest, the Rockettes as reindeer hurry to hook up Santa Claus’ sleigh (“Sleigh Ride”). Santa arrives and he, along with the Rockettes, fly off to Radio City Music Hall in New York City (“Santa Flies to New York”), and introduces the Rockettes who perform “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” 

Every girl has a favorite toy. The fuzzy clown with the big buttons and the even bigger smile and a cuddly bear that’s always a perfectly furry gentleman. A young girl named Clara dreams about those same toys and when an oversized paw reaches out to her little hand, making her dream come true (“The Nutcracker”). Later, the Rockettes become wooden soldiers, whereupon they turn, march and fall (“The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers”). 

Outside the hall, Manhattan is buzzing with Christmas excitement. The Rockettes board a double-decker bus for a tour of the city (“New York at Christmas”). As they bundle up in their winter coats and stretch their legs, the Rockettes take in the sights from the ice skating in Central Park to the heart of Times Square. 

At a local mall, Santa meets a young girl named Kayla, and her mother. The mother is on a mission to snag a certain hard-to-find gift, a Jumping Jasmine doll. As they rush to find it, Santa realizes he can’t keep the other children waiting and wishes how he could be everywhere at once as dozens of other Santa Clauses come out onstage and dance (“Here Comes Santa Claus”). 

Santa, Kayla, and her mother are whisked off to the North Pole on a blizzard. (“Closer Than You Know”). There, they meet Mrs. Claus and the elves and catch a glimpse of the colorful décor and all of the magic-making joy. Santa suggests to Kayla and her mother that they’ll find a Jumping Jasmine doll in the toy shop. However, Humbugs have kidnapped the toys. Santa enlists Kayla and her mother, as well as the Rockettes, for a video game mission on a magical journey through the Northern Forest all the way to the Humbug King’s castle, facing flying humbugs that hover over the audience, a gingerbread army, a giant ice monster and the Humbug King himself. (“Santa’s Video Game”). Back in New York, not only does Kayla receive her gift, the mother is reminded that there is the best gift inside their heart (“Closer Than We Knew.”) In the finale, Radio City Music Hall is transformed into a winter wonderland (“Snow”).

Traveling almost one hundred miles to Bethlehem finding no room at the Inn, Joseph and Mary lodged at a common stable. At this remarkable, moving and seemingly ordinary place, Christ the King was born. An Angel visited nearby shepherds to tell them that a child, a savior was in a manger in the City of David. A star led three wise men to the newborn child, bringing him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh (“The Living Nativity”). From near and far, the night was filled with wonderment, love and reverence, as visitors paid visit to the child who would be their Lord, changing the world forever as the show closes with “Joy to the World” as the curtain falls.