Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Rockettes!

Tonight, Gerald and I enjoyed one of our Christmas gifts – tickets to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, featuring the Rockettes!

I’m a huge sucker for music theatre. A well-choreographed song and dance number just does me in, so once the show started, I was grinning and giggling like a child. And tonight, I officially fell in love with the Rockettes! You hear about them. You make fun of them (who hasn’t made a kick-line with their friends?) But until you see them in person, you just can’t appreciate what a strong performing team they are. I love the kick-line and, cliché though it may be, my favourite was the March of the Wooden Soldiers. So simple and charming!

But here’s the thing: We’re watching the show, and it truly was all about glitter and bright colours and shopping in New York. Santa was our emcee for the evening, and at one point, he announced that if he didn’t get out with the toys, Christmas wouldn’t happen. Well, I’m a huge Santa fan, but I know for a fact that Santa does not dictate the arrival of Christmas. As I’m watching it, I’m thinking, “This is what’s wrong with Christmas. We see these shows that teach us that Christmas is all about toys and shopping.”

But, boy, was I wrong.

I’d heard about the Nativity at the end of the show, but I truly had no idea what was coming...

They introduce the scene by acknowledging that this story is the true reason why we celebrate Christmas. They quote Isaiah’s prediction of the coming of the Christ child. (Yes, the Biblical Isaiah.) Then they tell the story about the census, the traveling, and the night of Jesus’s birth. There is no dancing, no tap shoes, no dialogue. It is sensitive and respectful, and truly stageworthy. The costumes are beautiful, but still restrained, and the lighting makes use of shadow and scrims. There is one flashy, yet completely appropriate piece of staging: the shepherds have real sheep, and the kings have real camels! (Yes, on stage!)

At the end of the scene, all the characters are on stage for the “living nativity”. A voice-over reads the poem “One Solitary Life”. The pit-singers burst into “Hark the Herald Angel Sing”. The woman next to me starts to sing along. I reach up to wipe the tears from my eyes. (I’ve been doing this since Isaiah).

And that’s how they end the show.

No kick-lines. No curtain call. No final bows.

Just a baby in a manger.

You can’t tell me this isn’t ministry. This show attracts thousands and thousands of people a year, and each of those people is given the chance to hear the Gospel story. I just sat there, amazed at this bold move. I know that money and audience numbers determine what goes into a show like this, but they could have ended with a huge song-and-dance "holiday" number. In our politically charged era, they make no bones about the fact that this is a Christmas show, and that Jesus is the reason for Christmas.

A few weeks ago, a Toronto judge received public flack for ordering the removal of a Christmas tree from the lobby of a provincial court. She deemed it to be a “religious symbol” that might offend non-Christians. Well, if she’s really worried about offending non-Christians, she should march right down to the theatre and protest the Rockettes, because every night, this Christmas, they are telling the true story of Christmas to thousands of people...

... and I'm so glad they are!

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