Apparently the Chicago market is adjusting to the fact that the Radio City Christmas Spectacular is beginning and ending its area run almost a month earlier, though I confess I prefer a show like this opening in uh, December, or at least after Thanksgiving rather than the week between Halloween and Veteran’s Day. But then, this is the Christmas show by which all others are measured, a holiday tradition since 1933 when the Radio City Music Hall would stage live Christmas shows in between movie screenings and also existing in various touring incarnations as well. The show is relentless, with one spectacular production number following another, including a sendup of “The Nutcracker” complete with dancing Teddy Bears (and Santa picking an “audience member” complete with dance shoes and knowing where her mark is, to join in), a peek inside Santa’s workshop and a magical world of singing toys complete with Santa’s elves (played by real “little people”) and Rockefeller Center at Christmastime, right down to the big Christmas tree and the snow. And then there are the Rockettes, that line of sleek, gorgeous women who dance and sing their hearts out in stunning, sexy costumes. Just when you think the whole thing couldn’t possibly top itself, you’re magically transported back to Bethlehem and the first Christmas in a living nativity that includes all of the trappings, from shepherds and magi—with real camels, no less—to Mary and Joseph arriving on a live donkey. By the time the Star of Bethlehem shines through the theater and the cattle and sheep are lowing—literally—it’s hard not to get that radiant burst of feeling that only comes with the true spirit of Christmas before coming out to autumn leaves and realizing that you have six more weeks to go to try and sustain it. (Dennis Polkow).
At the Rosemont Theater, 5400 N. River Rd., Rosemont, (312)559-1212. This production is now closed.