Like glitz and kitsch? Of course you do. Book early and catch The Rockettes performing at their annual christmas spectacular
When John D. Rockefeller Jr. decided to finance the Rockefeller Center, he wanted a music hall that was pinnacle of showbiz. He dreamed of bringing back the high class entertainment that had been lost during the Great Depression. The result was Radio City Music Hall, hailed as the “Showplace of the Nation”.
It was the brainchild of vaudeville producer Samuel Roxy Rothafel. He launched his venue on 27th December 1932 with an extravaganza that included Ray Bolger, Doc Rockwell and Martha Graham. But the night was a disaster: the program was too long, and the stars’ voices were lost in the cavernous auditorium.
Partly because of this, the music hall was also converted to be used for feature films. This tradition continues today: the premieres of the Harry Potter film series took place there. In the past it has also played host to the Grammy Awards, the Tony Awards, and even the NFL draft. To this day, the Tony Awards still take place there.
A break with tradition
Movie palaces of the time were typically of an ornate, rococo style. Radio City broke with this tradition: behind its iconic neon facade lies a relatively austere, Art Deco interior, which was designed by Donald Deskey and declared a city landmark in 1978. Glass, aluminium, chrome and leather were his materials — and the result exemplifies 1930s New York style. As one journalist of the time wrote: “It has been said of the new Music Hall that it needs no performers.” High praise indeed.
Radio City’s Great Stage measures 20 by 44 metres and resembles a setting sun. According to Radio City lore, its system of elevators was so impressive that the U.S. Navy copied its hydraulics for their aircraft carriers. During the war, government agents guarded Radio City’s basement to ensure the Navy’s technological advantage.
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