The Radio City Christmas Spectacular and A Christmas Fantasy on Ice | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Radio City Christmas Spectacular and A Christmas Fantasy on Ice

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The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, Rosemont Theatre, and A Christmas Fantasy On Ice, Drury Lane Theatre, Evergreen Park. There are really only two ways to enjoy certain holiday productions: either grab the nearest kid or senior citizen, shell out $15 to valet park your minivan, and sit back and "fill your heart with Christmas" or bribe the nearest drag queen, knock back a few special-recipe eggnogs, and wallow in suburban-style camp.

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular, a decidedly cheery event returning for another season at the Rosemont Theatre, is anchored by the Rockettes and a fresh-faced, multicultural bunch of singer-dancers performing in Christmas (definitely not "holiday") vignettes to aerobics-style choreography. A strangely ecumenical mix of the secular and the sanctimonious, offering healthy nods to red-blooded capitalism and heterosexuality, this exercise in "fun for the whole family" will appease even the most jaded brat with its talking trees, dancing poinsettias, colorful Gap-inspired costumes, rapping midgets, and various animals (a puppy, a camel). Unfortunately the cast members chill the soul with the kind of permanent grins seen most dangerously on Star Search, but those Rockettes do kick ass.

Here's what's nagging me like a Grinch, however: the gooey sectarian "living Nativity" that ends the show calls the Bible "the greatest source of history" and Jesus Christ (whose name isn't otherwise mentioned) the "central figure for much of the human race." You're kidding, right? And if it's really "Christmas in New York," wouldn't the gay couple be holding hands?

Such questions don't plague A Christmas Fantasy on Ice, an outrageously lowbrow orgy of salacious spandex--think Tron meets Solid Gold. Incorporating all the vulgarity of an off-strip Vegas show, this spectacle on ice is a lesson in unadulterated camp. The young cast, led by two-time U.S. figure skating champ Christian Hendricks, a juggler named "Circus Boy," and two life-size elf puppets, twirls and axels on an iced rectangle to prerecorded, overproduced Christmas carols. For two and a half hours.

What's shocking is how risque the whole thing is. A Playboy-style "Santa Baby" bares buttocks and cleavage, scantily clad showgirls have their own number, and the sweaty Hendricks goes shirtless. Talk about Christmas fantasies.

--Erik Piepenburg

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