January 31, 2014

Photo Essay: The Spectacular Radio City Music Hall

Having worked in the music industry for so many years - particularly in classical music - I'd attended concerts at Radio City Music Hall a few times. I went to the Tony Awards one year. I even went to Edith's grad school graduation there.

I walked by it every day for over four years, when I worked next to Rockefeller Center.

But although I'd been there, I'd never really seen it.

Of course, I didn't realize that until I actually took the tour when I was back in NYC for Christmas.

It's not the best time of year to take the tour, because with their back-to-back Christmas Spectacular show schedule, you don't get to go into the house or backstage to see the stage hydraulics. But it was worth the trip anyway.

From the moment you walk under the marquee, it's grand.

The lobby - called the Grand Foyer - is shiny and tremendous, and at Christmastime, they've got an amazing crystal tree "ornament" which is more like a glittery chandelier.

Standing in the lobby, you are surrounded by undulating balconies...

...mural painted walls..

...and lighting fixtures reflected in mirrors.

There are the curved shapes, typical of the Art Deco style... well as the metallic finishes, and the geometric patterns.

I remembered going downstairs during shows to use the ladies' room...

...but I didn't remember the fabulous ladies' room itself...

...or, shockingly, didn't notice the luxurious lounge at the time.

The walls of the lounge are covered with a mural, Witold Gordon's "History of Cosmetics"...

...first painted oil on parchment in 1932 and overpainted in 1968.

Here, there are plenty of places for ladies to fix up their own cosmetics before and after shows, and during intermission... well as foot pedal-operated hand dryers.

Inside the elevators that take you up to the mezzanine level...

...each wall tells a story with its inlaid wood designs.

Looking down upon the Grand Foyer... get close to the shimmering ceilings, most of which were originally covered in gold leaf...

...which, being notoriously fragile and therefore nearly impossible to clean without destroying it, had to be replaced with a cheaper, more durable metal leaf - an imitation gold leaf for decorative purposes that can come in many shades.

Up here, the lighting fixtures and the carpeting (which is a reproduction of the original) scream Art Deco as well.

Although we couldn't go into the house because of the show about to start, we did get to view the Great Stage from an observation window above, its huge arched proscenium (60 feet high and 100 feet wide) resembling a setting sun.

As the show is about to start, two organists come out to play the Mighty Wurlitzer on two identical consoles.

Up there, you can also find the lighting rigs (including spotlights)...

...and the projection booth, for those times when the Music Hall does transform into a movie house (which it was regularly until 1979).

Original seats from Radio City's opening night - December 27, 1932 - have been saved....

...and relocated to small screening rooms in the upstairs office area, used for the tours.

The hallways are lined with framed posters, photographs, and other memorabilia of the many shows and celebrities that have graced the Great Stage.

Perhaps the most recognizable performers at Radio City are the Rockettes, the stars of the Christmas Spectacular, whose many costume iterations over the years can also be found on display and in storage throughout the building. When you take the tour, you even get to meet one, get your picture taken with her, and, in our case, catch a glimpse of some rehearsing.

The building is old, but it's in great shape. Its interior was designated a city landmark in 1978, and after careful restoration, it is still the largest indoor theater in the world.

And it's not just for tourists. But I guess I'm a tourist in New York City now during Christmas, just like the rest of them in Rockefeller Center...

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