'New York Spring Spectacular' Music Revealed: Beyonce, Pharrell, Madonna (Exclusive)
Director-choreographer Warren Carlyle breaks down the Rockettes' first major new spring show since 1997, and the first to get them kicking to current chart-toppers.
Weinstein Live Entertainment and MSG Entertainment's New York Spring Spectacular features music by Beyonce, Pharrell Williams, Madonna, Ariana Grande, Bruno Mars and Demi Lovato, in addition to the previously-announced Taylor Swift, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
Directed and choreographed by Broadway vet Warren Carlyle, the large-scale, landmark-hopping production — starring theater boldface and Nashville actress Laura Benanti and Dancing With the Stars' Derek Hough — is the first major new spring show featuring the Rockettes since 1997. It's also the first time that the dance troupe, which has long been showcased in the traditional Radio City Christmas Spectacular every end-of-year holiday season, will synchronize its kick lines to contemporary chart-toppers.
"I want it to be classic and last forever, but since the Christmas show is so traditional, there's an opportunity here for me to do something less traditional, choreographically and musically," said Carlyle, who watches the Rockettes' holiday show every year and notes that filling the venue's scale was the most daunting part of the job. For the set list, "it was picking music that appealed and inspired me — simple as that!" But Calyle reassures fans of the traditional that the show closes with a signature "hat and cane" number with all 36 dancers.
The Spring show features a mix of classic and current music, including portions of original recordings, orchestral arrangements by Larry Hochman, Michael Starobin and Daniel Troob (including songs made famous by Frank Sinatra, Fred Astaire, Judy Garland and Bing Crosby) and numbers written for the show by Gary Barlow, Eliot Kennedy, Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman.
"The Rockettes are iconic — there's an institution that needs to be respected, so it's about taking their structure, precision and formations and keeping them intact, and infusing [today's] movements inside of that," adds choreographer Mia Michaels (So You Think You Can Dance), who kicks off the show with Swift's "Welcome to New York," the official track for NYC & Company's tourism, that Michaels selected for the show before Swift released 1989. "She is an amazing songwriter, that girl, and as soon as I heard it, I knew. I just moved back to New York as well, so it was personal for me. We rearranged it so it's less of the pop song you'd hear on the radio: the girls are singing it, and it's a little more theatrical."
In the Radio City Music Hall production — which begins previews tonight, ahead of its official opening on March 26 — Whoopi Goldberg voices the Statue of Liberty puppet, Bella Thorne voices the Alice in Wonderland statue and Tina Fey and Amy Poehler joke around as the New York Public Library's lion statues, among spotlights on Grand Central Station, the New York Public Library and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Besides puppetry and 3D technology, the show also features a slew of video cameos by 50 Cent, Odell Beckham Jr., Victor Cruz, Walt Frazier, John Leguizamo, Al Michaels, Kelly Ripa, Mariano Rivera, Sam Rosen, Carmelo Anthony and Henrik Lundqvist. Martha Stewart, Donald Trump, Illumination Entertainment’s Minions (of Despicable Me fame), Paddington Bear, aerialists and the Easter Bunny are also featured.
"I'm [particularly] proud of 'Singin' in the Rain' because by some miracle, we made it rain onstage at Radio City for six minutes," Carlyle says of the tap-dancing number. "It is really crazy and fun, and one of my happiest days was watching 36 Rockettes in shower caps and swimming goggles, getting rained on for the first time, and squealing with delight."
With a book by Joshua Harmon and with husband-and-wife duo Randy Weiner and Diane Paulus as co-creative directors, New York Spring Spectacular was originally conceived as Heart and Lights, in which two teenage cousins explore the past of their beloved grandmother. Crafted by director-choreographer Linda Haberman and featured a book by Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winner Doug Wright, the five-week run was set to premiere last spring but was canceled less than a week before its opening date. The overhauled, family-friendly show — which runs through May 3 — now incorporates a love story amid sequences on fashion and traveling.
"I love this city, and I wanted to communicate that to audiences — I want them to leave this building, if they're from here, falling in love with the city all over again, or if they're not from New York, getting to experience this great city in 90 minutes of spectacle," says Carlyle, who relocated from London fifteen years ago. "I really wanted it to be a love letter to New York. It's a magical place; I'm constantly challenged and inspired by it."
See the full song list, in no particular order, below.
“Run the World (Girls)” – Beyonce
“Vogue” – Madonna
“Come Get It Bae” – Pharrell Williams
“Bang Bang” – Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj
“Neon Lights” – Demi Lovato
“Welcome to New York” – made famous by Taylor Swift
“Empire State of Mind” – made famous by Jay Z and Alicia Keys
“Happy” – written by Pharrell Williams
“Just The Way You Are” – originally recorded by Bruno Mars
“Singing in the Rain” – made famous by Gene Kelly
“Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head” – written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David
“There Is No Business Like Show Business” – written by Irving Berlin
“New York, New York” – written by Kander and Ebb and made famous by Liza Minnelli and by Frank Sinatra
“The Way You The Look Tonight” - made famous by Fred Astaire
“I Won’t Dance” - made famous by Frank Sinatra
“America” – written by Neil Diamond
"Rhapsody in Blue" – written by George Gershwin
“Easter Parade” – made famous by Judy Garland and Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby
“Pictures in the Exhibition” – written by Mussorgsky
“I Could Have Danced All Night” – written by Alan Jay Lerner/Frederick Loewe
“Piano Sonata in A Major” – composed by Mozart
“Symphony #7 in A Major” – composed by Beethoven
“Hungarian Dance #2” – composed by Franz Liszt
“Symphony #3”— composed by Antonín Dvořák
Various sports themes
“NY Adventure” – written by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy
“Bring It Home” – written by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman
“Force of Nature” – written by Gary Barlow and Eliot Kennedy