This theater at the Rockefeller Center is synonymous with lavish productions and the Rockettes
New York has many Art Deco buildings and the Radio City Music Hall is a favorite that can be toured. This is the theater with the fabulous leggy Rockette dancers.
Radio City Music Hall
This Art Deco theater was created in the 1930s by S.L. Rothafel (Roxy). The auditorium has an oval ceiling that curves gently down to the floor, reaches a height of 83ft., and is open all the way to the back of the house. There are more than 6,000 seats and, as there aren’t any pillars, there are no obstructions.
The decor includes a back wall with theatrical scenes on it, mezzanine soffits with gold leaf, and choral staircases (a series of platforms that rise towards the back wall). Each platform has a draped entrance allowing performers to reach them from backstage, which makes for some great special effects.
The elegant Grand Foyer has long crystal lights that illuminate forest scenes on the walls.
There are three beautiful statues including The Dancing Girl, made of aluminum. She kneels gracefully on a plinth perfectly complementing the black walls and a wonderful mural depicting entertainers through the ages. Off the Grand Foyer is an aluminum statue of Eve. Here the base of the walls is red marble from Africa and the ceiling is sumptuous with gold leaf. The third statue – a nude – is on the First Mezzanine; this one is called The Girl and the Goose.
The theater was named Radio City Music Hall in honor of NBC (National Broadcasting Company) whose studios and offices are at the Rockefeller Center.
The man responsible for the Rockettes was Russell Markert. Having seen England’s Tiller Girls in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1922, he wanted to have a similar troupe of dancers. In 1923 he went to St. Louis, as a producer for the Missouri Theater, and acquired his troupe. They made their debut in St. Louis in 1925 as the Missouri Rockets.
They were a smash hit and within months their fame was such that they began touring the USA. Now Markert expanded the troupe and renamed them The Sixteen American Rockets.
New York was next. By now there were two troupes. They were a sensation in two different theaters. For an Easter show at his Roxy Theater, Rothafel suggested putting the two groups together. The thirty-two became a permanent troupe renamed the Roxyettes.
When Markert became a producer at Radio City Music Hall he changed the name back to its original – more or less. The Rockettes.
Entertainment at Radio City Music Hall
The Rockettes are without a doubt the most popular features of Radio City Music Hall. Specializing in precision dance, these talented entertainers have fascinated crowds in NYC for generations. Consisting of beautiful young ladies, the Rockettes are particularly known for their high kicks and synchronized choreography.
With a heritage that goes back to 1933, the Radio City Christmas Spectacular is another iconic series that has brought joy to countless spectators. Typically performed during the holiday season right after Thanksgiving, this show is filled with Christmas carols and other uplifting songs for the whole family.
The layout of Radio City Hall includes the Orchestra level right near the main stage. The First Mezzanine, Second Mezzanine, and Third Mezzanine make up the other seating arrangements. These cascading mezzanine levels encircle the outer perimeter of the Orchestra section. Approximately 6,000 guests can enjoy an unforgettable show inside this world-class venue.
The Radio City Music Hall Tour
The guided tour of Radio City Music Hall begins with a ride in an elegant elevator. The Wardrobe is a large room where all of the costumes used to be made but now displays an exhibit of sparkling top hats, colorful costumes in silks and satins, sequins, feathers, and lace; wigs, fans, and various other accessories.
Following a quick visit to the SoundBox – a glassed-in room overlooking the auditorium and stage and from where you get the best view of the auditorium – there is a visit to the Executive Suite. This consists of an Art Deco lounge and dining room where almost all famous theatrical names have been entertained.
The icing on the cake for this tour is to meet a Rockette – a tall, leggy, dancer who is very happy to meet her audience. And, of course, there is the opportunity to go into the magical auditorium.
Radio City Music Hall History
Radio City Music Hall is part of the Rockefeller Center, which is a mixed-used complex that was developed during the early 1930s by the wealthy Rockefeller family. Initially, there were ambitious plans to construct an opera house that would entertain the upper class of NYC. However, such plans quickly shifted into an interest in opening a music hall in the heart of the bustling center of Manhattan.
NBC and RCA were some major entities that had a strong say in the overall development of the Rockefeller Center. These companies supported a venue that eventually evolved into the current Radio City Music Hall.
Architect Edward Durell Stone took a leading role in designing the venue in the Art Deco style, which was one of the most popular themes during the 1930s. Despite the Great Depression, Rockefellers and their affiliates successfully built the music hall, several skyscrapers, and other structures.
The 1970s marked one of the worst periods in this iconic venue that was competing with the rapidly changing multimedia industry worldwide. Cable television and other emerging visual presentations almost lead to the bankruptcy and closing of Radio City Music Hall. Fortunately, the Showpeople’s Committee To Save Radio City Music Hall saved the landmark from a tragic demise.
Throughout its rich history, the hall has hosted plenty of events beyond just traditional concerts and the performance arts. The Madison Square Garden Company has dominated the modern operations of the hall. As the name suggests, this corporation has strong ties to NYC’s Madison Square Garden, which is home to several professional sports franchises.
Visiting Radio City Music Hall
Centrally located in Midtown Manhattan, Radio City Music Hall is easily accessible through several public transportation options. Situated at the corner of 6th Avenue and 47th Street, the Rockefeller Street Station is served by the B, D, F, and M lines of the New York City subway network. This busy underground station is primarily used by passengers heading to and from the Rockefeller Center, which includes the iconic GE Building.
Some other subway stops that are within walking distance of Radio City Music Hall include 49 Street and 5th Avenue/53rd Street. Overall, there are more than 10 subway lines that are located within a few blocks of the performance venue. Situated about a dozen blocks away from Radio City Music Hall, Grand Central Terminal is one the busiest transit hubs in NYC. This historic landmark is connected to more than 10 commuter rail lines. Additionally, plenty of Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) buses navigate the streets and avenues of Midtown Manhattan.
Location: 1260 6th Avenue (between W. 50th and W. 51st Streets), New York, NY, 10020
Click here to visit Radio City Music Hall official website.