The show, written by Joshua Harmon, produced by Harvey Weinstein and directed and choreographed by Warren Carlyle, takes a thin plot and uses it as an excuse to tour a splendidly clean and inviting New York City. Jenna (a bright-voiced, vivacious Laura Benanti) is a billionaire IT executive who wants to fire tour guide Bernie (Lenny Wolpe, who nearly steals the show with his down-to-earth charms) and replace him with an App. Jack (Derek Hough, good looking, good dancer, but not particularly charismatic) is an angel. In order to win his wings—which are gorgeously visible on rows of singing angels ensconced in niches up and down the theater walls—God (Whoopie Goldberg’s voice) tells Jack to help Bernie keep his wings. Just as Jenna is firing Bernie in Grand Central Station—which fits comfortably within the Radio City proscenium—Jack interposes himself and proposes that they all follow Bernie on his tour and if, at the end of the tour, Jenna isn’t convinced of his value, she can fire him. The ending is a foregone conclusion.
The tour is the core of the show. Using songs, large-scale dance numbers, projections of cityscapes, large animatronics, tons of scenery (designed by Patrick Fahey) and busloads of dancers and singers to portray a roving population (seemingly all in their twenties!) the Spectacular visits the Metropolitan Museum (where paintings come to life), the New York Public Library (where the lions, Patience and Fortitude are wittily voiced by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler), Central Park in a rain storm (a cue for “Singing in the Rain”) and, most potently, a huge Statue of Liberty (Whoopi Goldberg, again). The Statue takes the show into a more “serious” direction as she questions Bernie about his immigrant roots (cue, Neil Diamond’s “America”) leading to videos of immigrants and lots of dancing ethnic types. Bernie also provides some real emotion when he dances with the ghost of his deceased wife, Isabella (an absolutely lovely Crista Moore) to “The Way You Look Tonight” (Kern/Field).
“Bring It Home,” written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, was the theme song of the show. The songs included classics like “I Could Have Danced All Night” (Lerner and Loewe), exuberantly sung by Ms. Benanti plus those mentioned above. Of course, the Kander and Ebb anthem, “New York, New York” had to make an appearance.
There is audience participation; a huge orchestra—conducted by Patrick Vaccariello—that keeps rising from the depths, acrobatic choreography, and, most of all the mesmerizing Rockettes who look ravishing in their many costumes (designed by ESOSA) and routines.
As my grandmother used to say, “What’s not to like?” I agree wholeheartedly.
New York Spring Spectacular (through May 7, 2015)
Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Sixth Avenue at 50th Street, in Manhattan
For tickets call 866-858-0007 or visit http://www.rockettes.com/spring
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission