Daily News from New York, New York on March 26, 1982 · 106
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Daily News from New York, New York · 106

New York, New York
Issue Date:
Friday, March 26, 1982
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50 years' wort (Continued from page 1) town" or to "the city." Almost always it was on an excursion led by parents or fond aunts or uncles, to the Christmas or Easter shows at the Music Hall. A day or two before the holiday, you'd get up early, have breakfast, dress warmly and head for the subway to take you to Sixth Ave. and 50th St. When you got there, what would you find? Hundreds of parents and kids, patiently waiting on lines that would stretch back to Rockefeller Plaza and around the block, held in place by ushers dressed like West Point cadets and who wore the whitest gloves on even the dirtiest days. 0NSIDE WAS A PALACE to kids who knew little more than apartment buildings in the outlying boroughs. Sky-high ceilings, bright lights, more gold than you'd ever seen and more ushers with white "gloves to show you to more lines that snaked up the magnificent staircase to seats 'way up under the roof. Then, when you sat down, the lights would still be on and out would come that magnificent organ to play appropriate songs we could listen to in awe, or sing along, if we cared. You certainly got your money's worth at Radio City. After the organist, there would be the orchestra, the men's chorus, the corps de ballet, the Rockettes, maybe even a well-known comic who'd get out onstage to entertain us. (The stage was so big that the first time comedian Peter Lind Hayes was asked to perform there, he asked another old-time comic, Joe Frisco, for advice. Frisco, who had played there often, and who was noted for his stutter, told Hayes, "Listen k-k-k-id. All of good old daysl -a . fiA f '- f 1 Photo by Martha Swope I have to s-s-s-say to you is d-d-don't ever g-g-get caught out there without b-b-bread and water!") We saw "The Bells jof SL Mary's" there when we were kids, probably with a Christmas show, and afterwards we'd head for the Automat or Childs' restaurant to "eat out!" what a treat! No wonder the Music Hall is remembered with affection. , No wonder also that New Yorkers rallied when the building was threatened a few years ago. There were a lot of memories attached to it Since it opened its doors, more than 255 million paying customers have en-terted the landmark theater to marvel at the art-deco interior. r'?s UT IT IS AS A movie house that ft most New Yorkers remember LmJ it, though the name suggests a different medium and the original concept was more as a vaudeville palace. It wasn't until the second week of the new year, Jan. 11, 1933, to be exact, that the policy changed and the house went to films-plus-stage-shows. And one of the most favorite questions on most movie quizzes is usually, "What was the first film to be shown at Radio City?" If you know the answer, good for you. If you remember who was in it and who was its director, go to the head of the class. If you don't know, you'll find the correct answer at the bottom of this piece. From 1933 until 1979, when movie companies were avoiding it as if it had suffered from a contagious disease instead of a slight stroke, the Music Hall was the cotillion for the debut of more than 650 movies, among them some of Hollywood's best. It wasn't called the "Showplace of the Nation" for nothing. Here's just a partial list of them: "King Kong," "It Happened One Night," "Little Women," "Twentieth Century," "The Informer," "Gunga Din," "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," "His Girl Friday," "Rebecca," "The Philadelphia Story," "Mrs. Miniver," "Jane Eyre," "National Velvet," "Sunset Boulevard," "An American in Paris," "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," "Days of Wine and Roses," "To Kill a Mockingbird" "The Pink Panther," "Bullitt" and "Play It Again, Sam." And they're just a few of the memorable ones. The theater's troubles began in the '60s, a time of upheaval in many ways. The major problem isn't it always? was economics. The theater was big and it was expensive to operate, with weekly costs running as much as 90 higher than its smaller competitors. The next problem was its image. The Music Hall was always considered a place for so-called "family entertainment," and with the coming of relaxed rules as to language and sexuality, the "family entertainment" tag meant kid stuff, and the place found itself deserted after suppertime. It was really caught in the middle. To change its policy meant alienation of its regular customers, the tourists, the famililes, the school groups; to keep its policy meant empty seats and not enough revenues. As a result, the place began to fall into disrepair minor repairs were ignored; the ushers gloves weren't cleaned as often, neither was the carpeting. And it looked as if the grand old movie palace would simply go the way of all Paramounts, Roxys, Strands and Astors. Its saving came in 1979, when a new entertainment format was created for the space by a new company, coming in ( Continued on page 9) r-v 1 I ? fit-4 w3 f ' i f I 1 ii 0 ' 4 ' Earlier this year, in just one night, more than 100 stars of the entertainment world gathered on the Music Hall's stage; above, one of the stars of the latest show there, "Encore OU ONLY GET TO BE 50 once in a lifetime, so Radio City plans to celebrate reaching that exalted plateau with a new show, called "Encore," opening tonight and dedicated to the people who created half a century of entertainment on the Music Hall's stage. "Encore" has 17 scenes set to music from Irving Berlin to Burt Bacharch to The Beatles; remembered production numbers from "Bolero" to "Rhapsody in Blue" to the "Glory of Easter." It will be pleasantly nostalgic, focusing on the good things and featuring the Mighty Wurlitzers, the twin organs that flank the stage; a salute to the more than 600 films that opened there and, of course, precision dancing by The Rockettes, newly choreographed or reconstructed by such as Geoffrey Holder, Violet Holmes, Linda Lemac and Frank Wagner. Over 1,000 costumes were made for the cast of 65, to represent past and present, with new designs created by Michael Casey and Bob Mackie; previous creations are based on designs by Frank Spencer and Vincente Min-nelli. Mackie's costumes for the Rockettes have more than 70,000 rhinestones alone which ought to be enough to light up all of Broadway. Maybe all New York City.

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