The Radio City Rockettes are back this summer, beginning an eight-week run at Radio City Music Hall June 15 in the New York Spectacular. This year, the Spectacular gets a makeover from director-choreographer Mia Michaels (best known for her Emmy-winning work on So You Think You Can Dance and, to Broadway audiences, for her choreography on Finding Neverland) and writer Douglas Carter Beane.
Beane re-imagines the Spectacular as a “comedy-laced fable” about two children lost in New York, but find their way back to their parents when the city’s statues come to life and show them the way. The tone of the show will mix Michaels’ contemporary feel with the Rockettes’ classic style as well as a blend of contemporary songs from artists such as Taylor Swift and the Beatles with classic show tunes from shows like 42nd Street and Cabaret.
At a press conference for the show, Michaels talked with Playbill about the style of the New York Spectacular Starring The Radio City Rockettes and how she can’t wait to get back to choreograph (and possibly direct) more on Broadway.
You were talking about the music of the New York Spectacular, saying there will be a wide range, from Broadway to contemporary pop songs, including Taylor Swift. What can you tease?
Mia Michaels: We’ve hired the team of [vocal designer] AnnMarie Milazzo and [music producer and arranger] Billy [Jay] Stein, [music supervisor] David Holcenberg and [music consultant] David Chase. We have all the masters of Broadway. What we’ve done is that we’ve taken these hits—these traditional songs—and we’ve made them current with beats. We’ve just reinvented them, and they’re so incredible. Honestly, everybody is going to want to buy this CD. It’s so good.
There will be a CD, too?
MM: Hopefully! I’m trying to push for that because the music is incredible.
It seems so contemporary, which is so in line with what you do, but also so classical “Rockette,” keeping with the brand everyone knows and loves.
MM: I love that juxtaposition. I love the tradition and the “classic” and [how they are] bashing heads with contemporary and relevance and now and pushing boundaries, so that it lives in this amazing own nugget of artistry. It’s its own thing. Working with the [Rockettes], it is a brand; it’s very traditional, but the way I’m moving them [is different].
What is it like to work with the Rockettes having loved them as a child?
MM: It’s kind of emotional—the fact that I am working with them on such an intimate level now, as the director and choreographer, and actually [developing] the vision of this show and how to celebrate them and the brand of the Rockettes. It’s incredible. It’s such an honor, and I have to pinch myself sometimes because I can’t believe that I’ve actually been given this responsibility to do this, and I am so excited about it because everything that we’re doing, and the team that I have—we all have such passion, and everybody has gotten on board, and we all have the same vision. And, for me, that means success. When you have a strong vision, and everyone is on board with it, you can’t go wrong with that.
Do you have any other musical theatre projects up your sleeves?
MM: Not yet, and I want to.
What would you like to do?
MM: I’m hoping that this will open doors for me as a director as well as a choreographer for Broadway.
Are you loving sitting in the director’s chair?
MM: I love it. I absolutely love it. It feels so right for me. I feel like I’ve been directing my whole career, but I just now got the official credit. Being in the director’s chair feels really organic. It feels right. It feels like I’ve been doing it forever. It feels great because as a choreographer, I’ve never just done steps. I’ve always just created worlds, and I’ve always had very high concepts, so it just worked so well, and that’s what I’m doing. That’s what I’ve been doing, but now I’m really able to do it because I’m being supported by Radio City, and they’re going with all my dreams, and they love my dreams. My dreams are really colorful. They’re really fun. For instance, last year they did “Singin’ in the Rain,” and they had Derek [Hough] leading, which was awesome, and I was like, “How do we do ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ without having a Gene Kelly lead?” I woke up one night…at four in the morning, and I texted AnnMarie, and I said, “If the rain could sing, what would it sound like?” And I kept thinking, “If the rain sings to the flowers, in which to make them grow, the Rockettes are the flowers. The rain sings to the flowers so that they grow.” It’s really cool.
What excites you to choreograph for the musical theatre versus pieces that are solely contemporary and lyrical?
MM: Story. Story first, because, for me, I love telling a story through the human body. For me, it’s what makes me tick. This is fun, and I love doing spectacle because I come from that world, and I love it, but there’s another side of me that’s a very, very intimate artist. I love telling very raw, raw human emotion through movement and telling stories that way, so I’m excited about getting more into the Broadway world and definitely getting in there and creating and telling stories.