The production was originally conceived as Heart and Lights, but was abruptly halted days before performances were scheduled to begin last spring.
Producer Harvey Weinstein then enlisted visionary director Paulus (Pippin, Broadway's upcoming Finding Neverland) and choreographers Carlyle (After Midnight, Chaplin) and Michaels ("So You Think You Can Dance") to craft and envision a spectacular set against the backdrop of New York City.
"I am born and bred in New York City; I grew up in Manhattan my whole life," Paulus told the press. "This is my hometown, [so] the idea of creating a spectacular that gets to take audiences from all over the world to all the best places in New York City through theatre and dance and music and, of course, the Rockettes, that's really special. To have an opportunity to do work on this scale, I think [husband and co-creative director] Randy and I said, 'You can't do a show about New York and not make it big.' And, here we are — on the biggest stage in the world."
Paulus added that the team has been working with playwright Joshua Harmon (Bad Jews) to tell a story about three New Yorkers whose lives are "changed because of this interaction with this tour of New York. It's a young guy, a powerful woman and an old man — this iconic, legendary tour guide — and how their lives intersect is a driver of the whole spectacle. We're hoping that the show will give you the Rockettes in a way you've never seen them."
It was announced Dec. 9 that Tony Award winner Laura Benanti (Gypsy), who was unable to attend the press event because she was on set of "The Good Wife," will be the powerful woman at the Spectacular's core. Additional casting for the young male and tour guide will be announced at a later date. The creative team did reveal that high-profile names in the fields of sports, fashion, entertainment and business have joined the venture. They will be featured through videography and projection.
Sports figures involved in Spring Spectacular include Victor Cruz, an American football wide receiver for the New York Giants; Walter "Clyde" Frazier, an American former basketball player in the National Basketball Association; Sam Rosen, an American sportscaster best known as the play-by-play announcer for the National Hockey League's New York Rangers games; Carmelo Kyam Anthony, an American professional basketball player who currently plays for the New York Knicks; and more.
Choreographer Carlyle explained that he aims to incorporate the Rockettes into sports and fashion scenes.
"I've done six giant sequences so far and there are more to come," he said. "I'm a great fan of tradition, but I wanted to take a good, hard look at the choreography — something that I love to do — and I wanted to re-imagine what these women do. I wanted them to roll on the floor. In the sports sequences, you're going to see these Rockettes play ice hockey, and you can only imagine me at 8:30 in the morning trying to figure out how to make ice-hockey dance… I wanted to challenge these women. I wanted them to jump in the air ten feet; I want them to be strong, smart, sexy, contemporary women — women that we aspire to in 2015. There's a fashion sequence, [where] we go to Fashion Week in the show, and there's a giant runway that comes onto the floor and swivels. We have a ton of video work. The choreography is on a giant scale."
Weinstein also said that some of the show's costumes are inspired by late designer, director and performer Vincente Minnelli. Business moguls such as Donald Trump, Whoopi Goldberg and Martha Stewart will also take part in the project, and some of the Spectacular's locations include the New York Public Library, Grand Central Station, the Met and the Empire State Building.
"This show is about new beginnings and fresh starts and spring," said choreographer Michaels, who makes her Broadway debut this season with Finding Neverland and has been tapped to choreograph the Spectacular's opening number. "My vision for the Rockettes is making the moment hot and fresh and urban and new — they have this power to them. I'm still fighting for them to wear black, but I don't think that's going to happen. It's spring, so I think I've lost that battle!"
Opening night is set for March 26, 2015, for a run through May 3.
Tickets, priced $46-$100, are on sale at Rockettes.com or by phone at (866) 858-0007.