Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A brief history of Radio City Hall :The Showplace of the Nation

When the stock market crashed in 1929, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. held a 24-year lease on a 12 acre (49,000 m²) piece of midtown Manhattan property valued at $91 million US. The building sat in "the speakeasy belt," and Rockerfeller Jnr had plans to gentrify the neighborhood including building a new Metropolitan Opera House. The “Crash” made that unlikely so the billionaire commission a palace of entertainment instead. At the time it was a bold decision but one which left a lasting impression on the landscape of NY by building a complex building to house entertainment. The new venture represented a sign of optimism and hope which also provided a superb platform for modern architecture and design.

"Radio City" and "Radio City Music Hall" came from one of the first tenants to the building The Radio Corporation of America (RCA). Keen to offset the colossal cost of his investment Rockefeller encouraged Radio Corporation of America (RCA), a young company whose NBC radio programs had attracting huge audiences and whose RKO studios were producing and distributing popular motion pictures to join him in the venture.

Impresario, S.L. "Roxy" Rothafel was an innovator in theatre design who had systematically given new life to struggling theatres across America and he was engaged to oversee the project. The building was designed be modernist architect Edward Durell Stone and the relatively unknown Donald Deskey, interior designer, was charged with designing the interior. He chose elegance over excess, grandeur above glitz and his brilliant combination of precious materials (including marble and gold foil), and industrial materials (including Bakelite, permatex, aluminum and cork) created an elegant, sophisticated, unified tour de force.

Radio City was built to accommodate an audience of 5,933 and the theatre auditorium was constructed in such a way there are no columns to obstruct views. The "Mighty Wurlitzer" organ, with pipes housed in eleven separate rooms, was built especially for the theatre. Radio City Music Hall remains the largest indoor theatre in the world with an estimated 300 million plus people sat in its auditoriums. It was designed as a “palace for the people,” the complex offered spectacular entertainment at a price the average New Yorker could afford.

The Great Stage, measuring 66.5 feet (20 m) deep and 144 feet (44 m) wide is perfectly equipped and comprises of three sections mounted on hydraulic-powered elevators. A fourth elevator raises and lowers the entire orchestra. The Music Hall opened to the public on December 27, 1932 with a spectacular stage show, featuring Ray Bolger and Martha Graham. Despite the bold attempt to resurrect quality vaudeville it proved a disappointment and then management changed to become a premier movie palace with the first screening of Frank Capra's The Bitter Tea of General Yen starring Barbara Stanwyck.

Since 1933 more than 700 movies have opened including: King Kong; National Velvet, White Christmas; Mame; Breakfast at Tiffany's; To Kill a Mockingbird; Mary Poppins; 101 Dalmatians; and The Lion King. During the golden years of the silver screen no self respecting film celebrity would miss the opportunity to make an appearance at the Radio City during a premier.

Radio City Music Halls now operates more as the premier NY venue for popular concerts, stage shows, special attractions and media events, but there are still some selected movie premiers shown. For decades, the Great Stage at RCMH has played host to the most popular entertainers and packed houses. The list includes: Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Linda Ronstadt, Bill Cosby, Liberace, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ann Margaret, Johnny Mathis, John Denver, The Count Basie Orchestra, Itzhak Perlman, Jose Carreras, Ray Charles, BB King, Bette Midler, Stevie Wonder, Riverdance, Tony Bennett, Billy Crystal, The Eurythmics, Barry Manilow, Liza Minnelli, Sting, 98 Degrees, Joe Cocker and Celine Dion with many, many more.

The theatre is home to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, a New York Christmas tradition since 1933, and to the women's precision dance team known as The Rockettes.

Worth a listen
Tony Bennett
Blue Velvet (1951)
I left my heart in San Francisco (1962)
The good life (1963)
Fioir once in my life (1967)

Jose Carreras
La donna è mobile

Ray Charles
What'd I Say (1959)
Let the good time roll (1960)
Georgia on my mind (1960)
Hit the road Jack (1961)
Born to loose (1962)
Unchain my heart (1962)
Take these chains from my heart (1963)

Joe Cocker
With a little help from my friends (968)
Feelin Alright (1972)
You are so beautiful (1975)
When the night comes (1989)
Night calls (1991)

Count Basie Orchestra
One O'clock Jump (1937)
Jumpin' at the Woodside" (1938)
April in Paris (1957)

Sammy Davis, Jr.
That Old Black Magic (1955)
What kind of fool am I? (1962)
If I ruled the world (1965)
Mr Bojangles
The Candy Man (1972)

John Denver
Take me home country roads (1971)
Rocky Mountain High (1972)
Sunshine on my shoulders (1974)
Annie’s Song (1974)

Ella Fitzgerald
If dreams come true (1935)
A tisket a tasket (1938)
Mack the knife (1960)
That old black magic (1961)

Sir Elton John
Your song (1970)
Rocket man (1972)
Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting (1973)
Pinball Wizard (1976)
I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues (1983)
Sad songs (say so much) (1984)

BB King
Three O'Clock Blues (1951)
Please Love Me (1953)
You Upset Me Baby (1954)
Bad Luck (1956)
The Thrill Is Gone (1970)
Let the Good Times Roll (1976)

Ave Maria

Johnny Mathis
Chances Are (1957)
The Twelfth of Never (1957)
Misty (1959)
Fly Me To The Moon
Moon River

Barry Manilow
Mandy (1974)
I write the songs (1975)
Can’t smile without (1978)
Copacabana (1978)

Bette Midler
Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy (1973)
Wind Beneath My Wings (1989)
From a Distance (1990)
In My Life (1992)

Liza Minnelli
Theme from New York, New York (1977)

Linda Ronstadt
When Will I Be Loved (1975)
You're No Good (1975)
Blue Bayou (1977)

Frank Sinatra
Blue Skies (1941)
Night and Dat (1942)
All throught the night (1946)
All of me (1948)
Some enchanted evening (1949)
Birth of the Blues (1952)
Three coins in a fountain (1954)
All the way (1957)
Witchcraft (1957)
Call me irresponsible (1963)
Strangers in the night (1966)
That’s life (1966)
My way (1969)
Theme form New York New York (1980)

The Eurythmics
Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) (1983)
Sexcrime (Nineteen Eighty-Four) (1984)
Sisters Are Doin' It for Themselves (1985)

Stevie Wonder
Fingertips Part I & II (1963)
Uptight (Everything's Alright) ( (1965)
A Place in the Sun (1966)
For Once in My Life (1968)
Superstition (1972)
You Are the Sunshine of My Life (1973)
Happy Birthday (1981)
I Just Called to Say I Love You (1984)

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