The tour continues. Coming from Hell’s Kitchen and Harlem, I’m now entering a completely different part of the New York dance and entertainment spectrum: Radio City Music Hall. By taking a stage door tour I get a sneak peek behind the scenes, where legends like Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Riverdance, Stevie Wonder, Adele and many more have performed.
Radio City Music Hall tour
Built in 1932 by John D. Rockefeller as the main entertainment center in the former ‘speakeasy belt’ of New York, Radio City Music Hall is an impressive landmark, which you can only really appreciate when looking at it from the inside. Sure, the outside is beautifully lit at night, but looks like any other high rise in the vicinity. Inside takes you back to the roaring twenties with it’s art deco decor. Even the men’s and ladies rooms are beautiful and worth a night out in my best dress. What I like about this building is that they thought of so many details while building it right after the stock market crash in 1929. Like small rails in the high ceilings to be able to easily clean the enormous chandeliers and curtains. How practical! I even get to see the ‘secret’ lavish, art deco apartment from producer Samuel ‘ Roxy’ Rothafel in the middle of the building. The real tour the force takes place backstage, where enormous hydraulic lifts manage the stage, haul up big decors and even live elephants. During the Second World War these lifts were protected by the secret service from espionage, because the same technology was used on air craft carriers by the US Navy. Pretty savvy. But I loved the story about one elephant, who was afraid of the lifts and was taught to climb the stairs by herself. I swear, I’m not making this up, I saw the pictures.
Radio City Music Hall is also home to the legendary Rockettes. 36 dancers, almost the same height and probably best known for throwing their legs up high in the air in unison. During the tour I get to meet one and ask her some questions. Besides the pretty faces and beautiful costumes, make no mistake: these women are athletes. Every Rockette has to be proficient in ballet, jazz and tap. She cannot be shorter than 1m65 or taller than 1m70. Tall girls are placed at the ends of the line to visually seem the same height as the shorter girls in the middle. During the busy Christmas season they perform 6 times a day for 90 minute shows and they have to re-audition every year. And that’s excluding the hours of training in between. For that you get this really smooth show and smiles that seem to be screwed on tight. In between the Music Hall is used for televised talent shows, concerts and sporting events. Even in the nosebleed section, all the way up and in the back of the theater you get a great view, a surprising large amount of leg room and amazing acoustics. This is also the spot where I get the best shot of the impressive Music Hall. If you ever get a chance to see a Rockette show in Radio City Music Hall, I can really recommend it. Or take the stage door tour if dancing isn’t your cup of tea.
Click the gallery below for more pictures.