I Like New York in Yule

With Rockettes, stores and Scrooges, Manhattan evokes the ghosts of Christmas past

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Well, he could hope that A Christmas Carol lasts as long as the Radio City holiday show, which has been going since 1933 and never looked better. Under the direction of Robert Longbottom (Pageant), the show struts the ageless panache of the 36 Rockettes in five precision prances, notably as a parade of wooden soldiers and as Raggedy Anns whose letter blocks eventually spell out merry christmas and a happy new year. A new version of The Nutcracker, with teddy bear dancers as sugar plum fairies, Arabian houris and Chinese pandas, is delicate, funny, winning. The climactic Nativity tableau -- teeming with camels, sheep, donkeys and some robust piety -- is bold enough to remind the audience who the real star of Christmas is. And, yes, there's a brisk, fanciful version of the Scrooge story -- in 12 minutes!

In its finesse and sweep, the Radio City spectacle summons up more than the best spirit of Christmas past. It creates a vision of old New York, when any young couple could think themselves as suave as Fred and Ginger on the ballroom floor or two skaters in love on the Rockefeller Center ice rink. Perhaps this image is no closer to reality than the current dark dream of Manhattan as Hell on the Hudson, but it tickles the mind nonetheless. Emerging from the show, locals and visitors alike can think, for a New York minute, that this is the capital of Christmas.

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