- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 5, 2005

The Radio City Rockettes high-kicked their way to Union Station yesterday to lure area residents aboard Amtrak to see the “Radio City Christmas Spectacular” in New York City. Eight dancers performed a “Holiday Jazz” routine before a gathering of about 60 people, including Amtrak employees and travelers passing through.

Douglas Duncan and Doris Minnich had just arrived in Union Station from Richmond when they came upon the performance. It made them consider taking a train ride to New York to see the real thing.

“It’s something we’re seriously thinking about,” Mr. Duncan said. “I’ve never seen the Rockettes up close before.”

The Rockettes also made a stop at the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia yesterday to promote their show.

About 9 percent of the “Christmas Spectacular” audience travels from the Washington area to see the show each year. Thirteen percent come from Philadelphia, said John Bonanni, executive producer of the show.

“We figured we would give a sense of reality that the Rockettes are part of those communities, and this gives [people] an incentive to get on the train,” Mr. Bonanni said.

Radio City and Amtrak declined to reveal the cost of yesterday’s promotion, which included raffles of train and show tickets.

Last year, 1.2 million people saw the “Christmas Spectacular,” earning the show $73.8 million — a 9 percent leap from the previous year.

The show is a 90-minute compilation of Christmas songs and dances that debuted in 1933 at Radio City Music Hall. The performance this year includes a new opening act, “Deck the Halls,” in which tap dancers decorate the stage as they dance.

The show also includes the traditional “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” and “Living Nativity,” complete with six sheep, three camels and two donkeys.

“My 80-year-old mother-in-law still sheds a tear at the ‘Parade of the Wooden Soldiers’ no matter how many times she has seen it, and 5-year-olds are still wide-eyed,” Mr. Bonanni said.

Musicians in Radio City’s orchestra last month voted to authorize a strike because of an overtime pay dispute, putting the show in jeopardy, but the music hall is confident the dispute will be settled before the curtain rises next month.

“While we typically do not comment on labor negotiations, we will say that we fully expect to reach an agreement with our musicians,” said a spokeswoman for Radio City Entertainment.

By stopping in the train stations, including New York’s Penn Station, yesterday’s tour was designed to sell the Rockettes and the convenience and romance of a train ride.

“The romance of going on the train and arriving in these stations … is crucial to the success of it,” Mr. Bonanni said. “This is a great way to travel and come to see the “Christmas Spectacular.” … There’s something very nostalgic and wonderful about it.”

A train trip from Washington to New York takes about three hours. Penn Station is about one mile from Radio City Music Hall.

“Christmas is a big selling point for all of our trains in the system nationwide — the romance of train travel and the various types of accommodations we have,” said Alan Orchison, senior director of industry alliances and marketing programs at Amtrak.

The Rockettes are scheduled to perform Nov. 3 to Jan. 2. Tickets are on sale at radiocity.com, from the box office or through Ticketmaster. Tickets cost $40 to $250.

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