Review By: Sandi Durell
They don’t call it spectacular for nothing – Easter Bunny and all! The leggy ladies are high kicking their way throughout this lavish production that actually has something historically instructional to offer about New York City in a slurpy, sugar-coated, over-the-top romp but, albeit, replete with the always loveable, deliciously voiced Laura Benanti, who plays techie billionaire Jenna of JennaWorld, who wants to turn everything, even sweet grandpa tour guide Bernie’s (Lenny Wolpe) city tour into a virtual operation. Her motto: JennaWorld: It’s Better Than Yours!
Written by Joshua Harmon (Bad Jews) with Tony winner director – choreographer Warren Carlyle (After Midnight) at the helm; (Diane Paulus and Randy Weiner, creative directors), with fabulous costumes by ESOSA, and once you have your 3-D glasses and LED changing-color bracelet, you’re set to take the tour with Dancing with the Stars Derek Hough (who plays Jack, savior from heaven), sent to save Bernie’s job, persuading Jenna to come along as well before she makes her decision final.
Off they go, to visit the highlights of New York City, with larger than life set designs by Patrick Fahey, first stop Metropolitan Museum of Art where Ancient Egyptians, New Guinea tribal statues and Knights in Armor come alive to dance it up with Hough, while the great paintings – Manet, Dega, Rembrandt – leap from their canvases to join the fray. It’s off to Central Park to meet Bernie’s techie grandkids and have tea with the Alice in Wonderland statue (who also comes alive-voiced by Bella Thorne) followed by a highlight Rockettes “Singin’ in the Rain” – yellow slicker outfits and umbrellas under a downpour of real water – giving Jenna’s sidekick Marshall (uber-talented dancer Jared Grimes) his shining moment as he puddle taps his way along with Jack.
There are video backdrops of the great movies made in NYC for a nostalgia trip back in time, as we move along to Times Square where Jenna quips “maybe I should buy Broadway and make it virtual” that way you can sit on your couch at home and Broadway will come to you as she sings “Bring It Home” (by Marc Shaiman/Scott Wittman). Let us not forget Fashion Week and Project Runway as it overtakes the City with designers Isaac Mizrahi, Diane von Furstenburg and Zac Posen as pop-up videos, while Rockettes strut the designer fashions in moves from hip-hop to legendary Fosse. (Not sure this was a needed segment but the extraordinary costumes and break out dancers made it worthwhile.)
Then it’s off to the NY Public Library, the talking lions voiced by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, and more history, and what’s New York without its sports – hockey, football, basketball, baseball – as team Rockettes dance their way through with winning pucks, hoops, bats and balls (enhanced with more video backdrops) as Bernie at bat hits it out of the ballpark. A giant Statue of Liberty talking head (eerie looking) provides the immigrant history of Ellis Island in video and at the top of the Empire State Building its time for some romance as Benanti goes through one of those magical on-stage costume changes from suit to dance gown as she sings “The Way You Look Tonight/I Won’t Dance” with Hough, while aerial dancers offer up an inspiring high flying rendition of their own.
It all ends up as it should with the 40+ Rockettes in top hats, tails and canes high-kicking their way through “New York, New York” as Benanti joins in on the Radio City Hall gigantic stage to bring to an end this 90-minute spectacle that is spectacular and does speak to old fashioned values in a high tech kinda way. It runs thru May 3rd. www.newyorkspringspectacular.com 212 247-4777 (with Emily Rosenfeld, Paige Brady, Colin Critichley, Grayson Taylor)
As an added bonus, take a peek at Laura Benanti in her web series “Workin’ It” where she is on a quest to take over classic New York jobs while working as a local Barista at a nearby coffee shop.
And here’s photos from opening night red carpet at the Radio City New York Spring Spectacular taken by Theater Pizzazz: