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 which 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.
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 display 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 is on 6th Avenue between 50th and 51st Streets.
It is open for tours Monday – Sunday 11.00 a.m. – 3.00 p.m.
Tours cost: Adults $17/Seniors $14/Children (12 and under) $10.
Getting there: Buses M5/M6/M7/M27/M50 all stop at the Rockefeller Center on 50th Street.
Trains B, D or F also go to the Rockefeller Center at 50th Street.