After weeks of speculation over a potential showdown between Musicians Local 802 and Radio City Entertainment, the 35-person orchestra walked out of rehearsal on Nov. 2 due to overtime and salary issues in their contract renegotiations. (Their previous contract expired in May.)
Outside a stage-door entrance on West 51st Street between Sixth and Fifth Avenues, the musicians passively carried "802" signs. At the entrance of Radio City Music Hall on Sixth Avenue, officials were busily handing out flyers explaining why the show, which was to have a dress rehearsal that night for a non-paying audience, would be cancelled for the night. They did, however, vow that the show would officially open the next day as scheduled with a pre-recorded orchestral track originally performed by a 55-piece orchestra.
On Thursday morning, the musicians showed up, ready to work, instruments in hand. However, they were refused entrance into the theater by security forces, and the 11 AM and 3 PM shows went on as scheduled with the Rockettes doing kick-lines to the tune of a recording.
"We are ready to play unconditionally and immediately, but apparently we've been locked out," David Lennon, president of Local 802 of the American Federation of Musicians, told The New York Times. "We took the picket signs down, and we did it for all the audience members and all of New York."
The following statement has been offered by Radio City Entertainment: "The Radio City Christmas Spectacular has become a beloved holiday tradition in every market in which it has been performed. We are proud that in 2005, ten cities, including New York, will experience the one-of-a-kind show, featuring the world-famous Rockettes. The show has begun its official run in New York today, where its first regular season performances are being enthusiastically enjoyed by a full house. The dispute between Radio City Entertainment and the musicians' union at Radio City Music Hall will have no impact on the performance schedule in New York and does not in any way affect productions enjoyed by families in cities across America. All shows, in all markets, will go on and the cherished family tradition will continue to dazzle audiences wherever it is performed." Tickets to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular cost as much as $250 each. The show is set to play through January 2, with two to three performances nearly everyday, and at least five shows on Saturdays. For more information, visit the Radio City website at www.radiocity.com and the Musicians Local 802 website at www.local802afm.org.