Camels in Manhattan
I am in New York to see in the New Year. Fortunately, almost all of the snow has melted away now, and the temperatures are reasonable for this time of year. The day we arrived, we went to see the Rockettes performance at Radio City Music Hall. RCMH is my favourite theatre ever. It's an art deco cathedral, which was lovingly restored back to 1930s glamour about a decade ago. The toilets are huger and more opulent than any I've ever seen - and that's just the toilets.
The Rockettes are a troupe of dancers who are well-known for their high kicking, synchronised dance routines. They've been performing since the 1930s (with many cast changes since), but still do some of the original dances, like one where they're dressed as toy soldiers. The Christmas spectaculor was about the most high production show I've seen. It seemed to have been choreographed by Steven Hawking, being hyper-complicated and ultra-precise. However, it was an odd mix of different things, some of which seemed a bit strange when taken out of context. For example, the show began with a voice intoning all of the different commercial sponsers who had been involved in the production. After this list, each one was given its own little advert - and bizarrely, at the end of all of this the audience actually applauded. Commercialism was threaded through much of the show, with an impressive cinematic Santa sledge ride through Manhattan involving going through a digitised Times Square, complete with bill-boards advertising the products of the sponsers. And at the end, as we were leaving, ladies were handed free Maybelline lipsticks. I guess all of this extra sponser-money was what helped to make this an amazing show, but I think I'd have still been impressed with less razzamatazz and no ads. I expect we'll be getting more of this sort of thing (if you're British), as the government are allowing product placement in tv and radio programmes now. In fact, this blog posting was brought to you by Vomilex - Britain's number one vomit suppressant: Don't retch! Take Vomilex!
Amidst these efforts to secure loyal customers, was a little tacked on bit at the end about the True Meaning of Christmas (not shopping after all), but the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. A montage of carols was hurriedly dashed out, and then a few sheep and camels were led across the stage. Having been on a tour of Radio City Musical Hall a couple of years ago, I'd seen the pens were animals were kept backstage, but it was still amazing (and not in an especially good way) to see camels in Manhattan - in mid-winter, indoors, with music blaring at rock concert levels. Again, it looked lovely, but I expect they'd be happier off in more natural surroundings.
Despite nods to "innovation" in entertainment such as 3D (not really an innovation, but a repacking of an old and naff idea), it was the Rockettes who were the main draw of the show, and performed best. Of the Rockettes, all were female, tall, leggy, beautiful, young, and most were white. Had I been a heterosexual man, I would have probably had a rather different reaction to this display of loveliness on stage. As it was, I had to make do with revelling in the kitchness of it all, and wishing that there were a few equally athletic chaps to do those high kicks in the line-up. Although the Rockettes are sold as wholesome, this oddly accentuates their desirability and sexuality - and I wonder what rich gentlemen in the 1930s would have made of them.
So it was an odd performance - the hard-sell of rampant commericalism, the technical wizardy of 3D, old fashioned songs and values, kitschy glamour, sexy-pure heterosexual fantasy machines, and a dash of religious fevour at the end. For aliens who want a crash course in American values, they could do a lot worse than the Rockettes Christmas show.