This Christmas, It's Musicians Vs. Rockettes

The Rockettes perform in New York City. (AP)
The Rockettes perform in New York City. (AP)

The Boston Musicians Association is continuing its crusade against the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular.

For the past few weeks the association has been aggressively campaigning against the on-tour iteration of the Radio City Rockettes. It's released a slew of radio ads targeting the use of "canned," or recorded music instead of a live orchestra during performances.

The Christmas Spectacular opens Friday at the Citi Performing Arts Center, formerly known as the Wang Theatre.

Local players concerned about their futures will make their presence known outside the venue, according to Bob Couture, vice president-elect of the association. And he said taking on the Rockettes is just the beginning.

"Our campaign will continue indefinitely," Couture said. "I mean, we are at a critical juncture, really something of a historical predicament relative to live music and we have to keep the public aware about what's coming to them in a can and what's coming to them live."

In one ad that's been running on WBZ-AM, a woman's voice implores, "Would you want your children to enjoy the joy and wonder of the Christmas season by taking them to see a plastic Santa with a mechanical voice? Of course not, so why should you take them to see the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at the Wang Theatre?"

Friday and Saturday Boston area musicians will take to the streets in what they're calling a "Drive-by Orchestra." The plan is to roll through the Theater Dictrict — on an double decker bus — while performing and distributing leaflets.

To be clear, the Rockettes holiday show employs a live orchestra in New York City, but the traveling version traditionally uses taped music, and has for years. It doesn't appear to have an effect on the popularity of the show.

Joe Ganley, spokesperson for the Citi Performing Arts Center, said he didn't want to respond specifically to the Musician Association's actions outside the Citi Center this weekend. Instead he provided this statement:

The Radio City Christmas Spectacular is one of the world’s best loved holiday shows. The touring version of the show which has never used a live orchestra was presented in Boston in 2004 and 2006 and was extremely popular drawing more than 350,000 audience members. The show returns to Boston this year for 53 dazzling performances at the Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre from December 3-29. The show will employ more than 150 union dancers, stagehands, ushers and teamsters.

The Citi Performing Arts Center is not producing the Christmas Spectacular. It's serving as what's known as a "four wall rental" and has no creative control over the performances.


This program aired on December 3, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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Andrea Shea Correspondent, Arts & Culture
Andrea Shea is a correspondent for WBUR's arts & culture reporter.



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