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3-D adds kick to that line of Rockettes

Santa Claus has come to town. And he's uploaded a brand-new 3-D video game to his sleigh.

For the 79th edition of "The Radio City Christmas Spectacular," director-choreographer Linda Haberman opens her high-tech bag of toys to bring the venerable holiday show into the 21st century.

Besides the show's video-game scene, Santa's traditional flyover grand entrance is also 3-D enhanced. So you'll want to separate the glasses from your program as soon as you get to your seat. Actually, Santa (played for the 25th year by Charles Edward Hall) makes two entrances -- the first in a sleigh drawn by Rockette reindeer, so he can cue you to don the specs.

The kick-line Rockettes remain the indispensable core of the spectacle, as they have since 1933. Two scenes stand virtually untouched since that first season: the precision-drill "Parade of the Wooden Soldiers" and the "Living Nativity" with its live camels, sheep and lone donkey. The nativity scene is brightened by an LED "sky" sparkling with stars.

The slow-motion denouement to the toy soldiers and the adorable teddy bear "Nutcracker" contrast markedly with the helter-skelter of "Santa's Video Game," in which dance is beside the point. We hardly notice the Rockettes through our 3-D glasses. The object of the game -- staged against an animated video-screen backdrop (graphics by Reel FX) -- is to liberate toys held hostage by Humbugs who resemble Scrooge-faced mosquitoes.

At first, only two Rockette avatars battle the bugs. But as the players -- a shopping-mad mom and her daughter -- earn "power-up" points, 36 Rockettes are deployed and the toys are released into our faces.

The 3-D adventure segues from the familiar "New York at Christmas" sightseeing bus scene, which ends at a department store where shopping mom frantically searches for a hot toy. She misses the point of Santa's video-game gift, which includes an eye-opening trip to his Oz-like workshop (design by Patrick Fahey).

In a new song "Closer Than You Know/Closer Than I Knew" by Mark Waldrop and music director Gary Adler, Santa moralizes about spending time with your loved ones rather than shopping for them. But his anti-commercial message is subverted by product placement. "The Christmas Spectacular" is "presented" by Chase, which gets its own storefront on the sightseeing tour while its logo dots Radio City's Art Deco ceiling.

But we still get a kick out of the Rockettes.


WHAT "The Radio City Christmas Spectacular"

WHEN | WHERE Two to five shows daily through Jan. 2 at Radio City Music Hall, Manhattan

INFO $45-$250; radiocitychristmas.com, 866-858-0007

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