Arts Around Town

Arts Around Town: Radio City Rockettes mark 85 years this holiday season

The holiday season's Radio City Christmas Spectacular marks 85 years of the world-famous Rockettes in New York, as the dazzling, costumed dancers continue the celebration as part of tomorrow's lineup in the 86th annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Nationally televised on NBC, the parade will air live from 9 a.m. to noon, taking a more accessible path in its march with a new route along 6th Avenue/Avenue of the Americas. With its signature elements in place – plus more than 3 million live spectators and more than 50 million viewers nationwide -- the event officially marks the start of the holiday season.

A holiday tradition by many in Berks County and the Lehigh Valley is venturing into the Big Apple to catch the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Audiences will experience some new changes with the show, including a costume retrospective through the decades that celebrates the Rockettes past, present and future.

Scenes such as "The Living Nativity" and "Santa's Workshop" have been enhanced by digital projection coupled with "the world's largest flown indoor LED screen," according to Radio City press. A 3DLive scene incorporates 3D elements interacting with live performance, something which "has never been done before in a live theatrical setting." Director and choreographer Linda Haberman is credited with being the driving force behind the re-imagining of the Christmas Spectacular, as well as taking the Rockettes precision technique to new levels.

Some production facts and figures passed on by Radio City include:

  • More than 1 million pairs of 3D glasses will be distributed to patrons to experience the 3DLive scene featured in the production.
  • More than 1,200 colorful costumes are worn in the show, with each Rockette having eight costume changes. In a few changeovers, a Rockette has as little as 78 seconds in which to change costumes.
  • Among the Rockettes, chorus and Santa, there are 1,200 pairs of shoes worn per show.
  • During the eight-week run of the show (through Dec. 30), the animals drink 450 bottles of water and eat 340 bales of hay and 560 loaves of 7-grain bread.

Sit back and enjoy the show! Happy Thanksgiving!

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Closer to home for some, Christmas doesn't start until they take in a production of "A Christmas Carol" at Civic Theatre of Allentown. The curtain rises Nov. 30 at 7 p.m., for the 23rd annual mounting of the show. Civic's production was adapted from Charles Dickens' classic holiday tale in 1989, when written by the theater's artistic director, William Sanders, and board president, Sharon Lee Glassman. With slight tweaking and revamped sets, costumes and scenes through the years, Sanders said he has made sure "the spirit always remains constant."

Veteran actor Barry Glassman, of Lower Macungie Twp., Lehigh Co., steps into the role of Civic's Ebenezer Scrooge for the seventh time. He took two years off from when he last performed the role. He's played the role in more productions at Civic than any other actor in the theater's presentation of the holiday classic.

"I love doing it," Glassman said of the role. "I'm just not thinking as repeating it … the real intent is to try not to follow patterns learned in the past. The emphasis is to move away from the characterization of a man and to look at him in depth as a man, not angry or hateful, but with an element of real humanness that allows transformation to take place. That's been fun to explore."

Glassman as Scrooge is "the glue for a very large cast," he said, working with nearly 100 performers from the community. Many of the younger actors are making their Civic stage debut, he added, and he is enjoying their contribution.

By profession, Glassman is a general dentist in Allentown with a practice concentration in chronic pain management, joint dysfunctions and sleep disorders. His lectures extend nationally and internationally. His "second family" has been Civic Theatre, where he and his wife, Sharon, have been actively involved since 1975. He's served as both a member of the board and as chair of the board of governors. He was the driving force behind the transition leading to Civic's 19th Street Movie Theatre operation.

One of Glassman's most memorable roles at Civic was playing Morrie Schwartz in Mitch Albom's best-selling memoir, "Tuesdays with Morrie." Others include Oscar in "The Odd Couple" and McMurphy in "One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest." But, he said, his most challenging role was portraying Roy Cohn in Tony Kushner's "Angels in America." He still gets emotional in the recall.

"A Christmas Carol" runs through Dec. 15 at Civic's Nineteenth Street Theatre.

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The holiday classic, "A Christmas Story," featuring the character Little Ralphie Parker, will be presented by Act 1 at DeSales University beginning Wednesday through Dec. 9. Written by Phil Grecian, the story is based on the film by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown and Bob Clark. Director of the DeSales production is Steven Dennis.

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The sounds of Christmas will be emanating from Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown on Sunday from 7 to 10 p.m., when area musicians gather for the annual event, "A Lehigh Valley Christmas in Concert." Holiday favorites will be performed in a variety of musical genres ranging from jazz to folk, pop to Celtic. Performers include Zen for Primates, Yancarlos Sanchez, Jake Kaligis & The New Constitution, Todd Wolfe, Blackwater, Dave Fry, and Cunningham & Associates.

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More than a mile of "Lights in the Parkway" turns on this weekend, Friday through Sunday, from 5:30 to 10 p.m., then again Nov. 30 and into the New Year through Jan. 6 (closed Christmas). Admission is $10 per car; $6 in advance. Back by popular demand will be ice carving and horse-drawn carriage rides. The Lights in the Parkway 5K will be held Wednesday at 7 p.m.

This year's 17th annual Lights in the Parkway sports LED lighting among the animated storybook figures that include The Wizard of Oz and Cinderella.

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If you're a train lover, it's holiday train time at the America on Wheels museum in Allentown, with a special exhibit beginning Friday through Dec. 30.

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