Madison Square Garden Entertainment (MSGE) will launch a touring arena version of its Radio City Christmas Spectacular this holiday season, Billboard.biz has learned.
The $25 million production will be geared specifically for arenas and play 18 cities across the midwest and south, beginning Nov. 7-8 in Green Bay, Wis., and heading to Houston, Jan. 2-4. The plan is to hit more than 60 markets over the next three years and then repeat the cycle. Details of the tour are expected to be announced tomorrow (May 1).
The move marks the most ambitious non-New York project ever for MSGE, a division of Cablevision which owns and operates New York's Madison Square Garden, the WaMu Theatre at MSG, the Beacon Theatre, and Radio City Music Hall (RCMH), and recently completed a transaction to acquire the Chicago Theatre.
The tour will boast all the elements of the much-heralded 75th edition of the Christmas Spectacular at 6,000-capacity RCMH last year, when MSGE also launched the Wintuk production with Cirque du Soleil at WaMu. In a 10-week span, the two shows were attended by more than 2.4 million people and grossed more than $150 million.
While the Christmas Spectacular has enjoyed residencies in theaters in some 30 markets since 1994 (including up to nine in 2008), the upcoming outing is unique in that it is indeed a tour, and that it is a multimillion production conceived specifically for large venues in the 7,000-12,000 capacity range. MSGE President Jay Marciano tells Billboard.biz that the 75th anniversary was a "springboard" for the idea to tour the Spectacular. "But the trick was the limitations of most theaters didn't allow for presenting the Christmas Spectacular on a scale that we do at Radio City," he says. "So instead we turned to the arenas, which allowed us to provide a family show the size of which has never been seen outside of Radio City Music Hall."
The show is produced by Jonathan Hochwald, executive VP, Productions, for MSGE, and directed and choreographed by Linda Haberman, who conceived and directed last year's 75th anniversary show at RCMH. "Our guiding principle was to take this great show we're so proud of on the road intact, where we can really maintain the ‘spectacular' nature of the show," says Hochwald. "We wanted to deliver something completely over the top that would be the biggest holiday spectacle ever seen in this country."
The production will move on some 30 trucks and 16 buses, and features a cast of 56, including the famous Rockettes. Artist renderings and schematics show production elements that include a massive LED screen, "flying" castmembers, and a secondary stage. The top ticket price will be $65-$75, and the average is in the low $50s, according to Marciano.
The 2008 Christmas Spectacular tour dates:
Nov. 7-8: Green Bay, Wis. (Brown County Arena)
Nov. 11-12: Minneapolis (Target Center)
Nov. 13-16: Milwaukee (US Cellular Arena)
Nov. 17-18: Peoria, Ill. (Civic Center)
Nov. 19-20: Grand Rapids, Mich. (Van Andel Arena)
Nov. 21-23: Detroit (Joe Louis Arena)
Nov. 26: Dayton, Ohio (Nutter Center)
Nov. 28-30: Cincinnati (US Bank Arena)
Dec. 2-7: Baltimore (1st Mariner Arena)
Dec. 9-10: Columbus, Ohio (Nationwide Arena)
Dec. 12-14: Birmingham, Ala. (Jefferson Civic Center)
Dec. 15-16: Bossier City, La. (CenturyTel Center)
Dec. 17-18: North Little Rock, Ark. (Alltel Arena)
Dec. 19-21: Kansas City, Mo. (Sprint Center)
Dec. 22-24: Tulsa, Okla. (BOK Center)
Dec. 26-28: Oklahoma City (Ford Center)
Dec. 29-31: Austin (Frank Erwin Center)
Jan. 2-4: Houston (Toyota Center)