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Jennifer Stahl on Tuesday, Mar 25, 2014
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After two years of work, $25 million in investment and endless anticipation, the Rockettes' new Heart and Lights production, set to open at Radio City Music Hall on Thursday, has been postponed until 2015. To explain the highly unusual move, the Rockettes' parent company Madison Square Garden Entertainment wrote in an announcement on Friday that "it has become clear that additional work is needed to deliver the unforgettable experience our customers have come to expect from us." This has left everyone wondering, What happened?
Although the show features everything from LED-wired costumes to a 26-foot tall Statue of Liberty to GPS-guided kites that fly throughout the theater, technical problems weren't to blame. The New York Times reports that MSG executive chairman James Dolan ordered an overhaul due to major creative problems with the storyline and music. He had been watching the show's evolution since workshops last June, and had called for improvements from director/choreographer Linda Haberman, but there were still too many concerns with the script as of last week. Dolan is typically more involved with the New York Knicks and Rangers than MSG's artistic properties. But apparently he's determined to create a show during prime tourist season that will be as popular as the Christmas Spectacular. As the Times puts it, this gamble allows him to improve the narrative before critics savage it.
While most productions of this scale would typically be pushed back a few weeks, the fully-booked Radio City schedule can't accommodate the five-week run later this year. All tickets will be refunded, which could mean up to a $5 million loss in sales alone for MSG. It's also a huge blow to the 40 dancers: Heart and Lights was to be the first spring show for the Rockettes since 1997, and the 59 performances would have helped provide nearly year-round work. Although it's unclear whether the same artistic team will continue, sources say Dolan praised the dancers for their "energy and excitement," and one of his consultants, publicist Sloane Zelnick, said, “The Rockettes were mesmerizing." Hopefully we'll get to see for ourselves next year.