Rockettes bring slick kicks to Lyric

October 28, 1994|By Mike Giuliano | Mike Giuliano,Special to The Sun

Delivering both the kicks and the kitsch, "The Great Radio City Music Hall Spectacular" brings the aura of that glitzy New York entertainment palace to Baltimore's somewhat more restrained Lyric Opera House.

This widely touring production fleshes out that aura with the Rockettes, Susan Anton, a magician and enough other performers to populate a Manhattan block. Although this musical revue does have some moments that are less spectacular than its self-celebratory title, on the whole it makes a pretty good case for showgirls who do exactly that. The Rockettes have got to be one of the liveliest of show-biz institutions. As many times as they've gone through their rigidly synchronized motions, these perky dancers somehow manage to always make it seem fresh.

It may be hard work, but the eternal smiles plastered on their faces make it seem like easy fun. And as the long and leggy lineup of ladies goes into its trademark high kicks, audiences instantly break into applause in a way that would please Pavlov himself.

As if the dancing weren't already impressive on its own terms, the Rockettes do it while wearing all manner of outlandish costumes constructed of bangles, baubles and beads. They're also adorned with enough feathers to make egrets and peacocks jealous. And what these dancers aren't wearing also may catch your eye.

This splashy revue has the good sense to simply package what the Rockettes and their variety show cohorts have been doing for 60 years. No attempt is made to give them any MTV moves to a hip-hop beat. If anything, their opening number spoofs a rap routine for a minute before the Rockettes collectively conclude: "The truth is, rap ain't us."

So that means you can expect such classic numbers as their "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers," in which their stiffly precise dancing wows you just like it did when you were a kid visiting Radio City Music Hall for the first time.

The Rockettes also play a large role in most of the show's other musical numbers. These range from the elegant swirling of Strauss waltzes to the more sultry moves of Ravel's "Bolero." Also featured extensively is the dance team of Michael Kessler and Melinda Jackson, who do justice to Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue."

A production highlight employing most of the cast is "Kingdom TTC Under the Sea," a charmingly dated balletic number from 1933 that fills the stage with mermaids, mermen and oysters that look suspiciously like costumed Rockettes.

Introducing the varied segments, and singing in some of them, Susan Anton holds her own. Although her singing sometimes packs more volume than emotional conviction, her mile-long legs are mighty convincing. In fact, her stature prompts an amusing bit in which she explains how her height kept her from becoming a Rockette.

Less impressive in this revue is "Stars of the Silver Screen," a song-and-dance medley meant to showcase the great movie dance teams once seen on the silver screen at Radio City. Having cast members impersonate stars like Debbie Reynolds, Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers only serves as a reminder that copies are not the originals. Also, ++ these short bits emulating famous dance numbers are really perfunctory. That's entertainment, sort of.

Also underwhelming is magician Jeff McBride, who appears wearing cape and mask on a foggy stage, as if he were an ominous phantom of the Lyric Opera House. He's fairly good at making his mask and other objects disappear, but why settle for so-so magic when there are truly magical Rockettes?

"The Great Radio City Music Hall Spectacular"

Where: Lyric Opera House, 140 W. Mount Royal Ave.

When: Today and tomorrow at 8 p.m., Sunday at 7 p.m.; matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Tickets: $20-$40

Call: (410) 625-1400

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