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Kicking Off Christmas

Radio City Rockettes in Town for Christmas Spectacular
By Shout Weekly Staff

As the Orpheum Theatre prepares for one of the biggest events of the year, the outstanding staff at the Omaha Performing Arts (OPA) is launching a thorough press campaign to make sure the Omaha Metro and surrounding areas know about it. After all, the OPA has managed to bring an iconic piece of New York City’s Radio City Music Hall right to downtown Omaha with the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the world famous Rockettes. President Joan Squires is ecstatic about the opportunity and rightfully so. It’s a prestigious honor to host such a dynamic event.
“We’ve been working for a long time to get the Rockettes here in Omaha and this year our schedules finally meshed,” Squires says. “We’re thrilled that Omaha was chosen to be the first of three cities outside of New York where you can see the Rockettes this holiday season. This is not only a tremendous honor for Omaha Performing Arts, but also a great tribute to the wonderful audiences we’ve had. Their response to the productions and artists we’ve presented has caught the attention of national booking agents. They know we have quality, enthusiastic audiences who are so supportive of what we present. And touring companies are now filled with performers and crew who’ve been here before and know how great it is to come to Omaha. The other two cities on this year’s tour are Houston and Nashville.”
 Not surprisingly, loads of work goes into every performance. Initially, choosing the Rockettes is a task in itself. They hold annual auditions and each dancer must be at least 18 years of age to audition, between the heights of 5’6” and 5’10 1/2” and be proficient in tap, jazz and ballet. It takes six hours per day, six days per week and six weeks prior to show opening to get ready to perform. Then it’s on to the show. From a unique take on ”The Nutcracker” to their original “Here Come Santa Claus” and the popular “Parade of the Wooden Soliders,” each show is packed full with ice skaters, dancing teddy bears, dozens of Santa Clauses, and seemingly endless surprises. Each segment of the show takes a lot of planning. Vice-President of Touring and Productions Jeff Capitola knows first hand the amount of time it takes to make the Radio City Christmas Spectacular happen every year.
“We start planning right after the first of the year working on the planning for the coming season, although we are often booked two years ahead,” Capitola explains. “We rehearse the ‘Parade of the Wooden Soldiers’ for a day and a half, or approximately ten hours of rehearsal. We then continue to review it during the rehearsal process and then add the pants, jacket, hat, and shoes once we arrive at the theatre.”
Susan Eustice, Divisional Director of PR and Communications at the Salvation Army, arranged for two of the Rockettes to appear at the annual tree lighting ceremony and it created quite a buzz.
“The appearance by the iconic Radio City Rockettes made this year’s Tree of Lights campaign kickoff very unique,” Eustice says. “The Rockettes helped the Salvation Army ‘kick’ on the lights as the organization launched its annual holiday fundraising drive. I’m sure they had something with record crowd in attendance last Friday, November 7.”
“The Rockettes are a true American entertainment and dance icon,” Capitola adds. “Even when we encounter people whose exposure to the Rockettes is not much more than the annual appearance on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, their world class reputation creates excitement every wherever we go. We travel with a traveling company of 83 people, which includes cast, crew, staff, athletic trainer, caterer, merchandise department. In addition, we have additional local crew that increases the number to approximately 110. Many of our team have been with us as many as ten seasons or more.”
With such ample dedication, it’s clear why the Radio City Christmas Spectacular has been a raging success over the past several decades. While it’s challenging to pull it off each year, Capitola makes sure everyone involved is the main priority.
 “We have a main office team of four full-time people who begin the planning phase for each season,” he explains. “The biggest challenge is making sure all of our T’s are crossed and all of our I’s are dotted. So many details are important—from auditioning and contracting to venue and hotel surveys to the set up of the rehearsal facility and ultimately the show. We have not only a business to run, but people to take care of each season.”
Radio City Christmas Spectacular with the Rockettes, November 14-30, at The Orpheum Theatre, 401 S. 16th St., Show times vary. Tickets prices also vary. Visit www.omahaperformingarts.org for more information.

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