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A CurtainUp Review
Chinese New Year's Splendor


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Chinese New Year Splendor
Circle of Light scene from Chinese New Year Splendor
What better way is there to celebrate the beginning of the Year of the Rat than seeing a really big show? And if you are going to present an overview of the past 5,000 years of ancient Chinese traditional culture in three hours you can't do better than have the stage of the Radio City Music Hall at your disposal. This lavishly costumed spectacle is presented by Divine Performing Arts and employs some two hundred performers, including dancers, soloists and musicians.

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The various scenes are supported by a full orchestra comprised of traditional and modern instruments and an impressive display of scenic effects to inspire awe. The Music Hall has the world's largest indoor LCD screen. It reaches across the entire width of the great stage. To bring life-like dimension to the settings, 3D animation is often integrated into the projections that reveal breathtaking vistas. Snow-capped mountains, lush valleys, rivers, waterfalls, blossoming gardens, pagodas and temples and street scenes serve as backdrops to the various dances and musical numbers.

The show gets off to a beautiful start with "The Creation,," an ethereal vision of Buddha descending to earth during the Tang Dynasty to awaken the people's sense of the esthetic. Who would not like to believe that it all came to pass that way and with the help of a bevy of gossamer draped maidens skimming through the clouds on their way down to earth? That it only takes three hours to reach modern day China is quite an achievement. But this last scene is also a reminder that the Chinese people, in spite of a totalitarian government, remain guided by the principles of "truthfulness, compassion and forbearance." We are guided through the program by two delightful hosts: Jared Madsen & Kelly Wen both of whom introduce each scene and share the Chinese into English introductions.

Dance is at the heart of this expansive entertainment, with both the male and female dancers exhibiting the various disciplines, notably classical ballet, martial arts, acrobatics, and tumbling. Expectedly, the male dancers have the more athletic assignments, notably as warriors. Although the women's corps de ballet is mainly consigned to dances that reflect lightness and grace, they also show versatility that prescribes vigorous jumps and dazzling spins. Artistically choreographed divertissements in which sea nymphs cavort in the waves and brightly costumed dancers fill the stage as flowering forsythia are lovely to watch.

A large contingent of Mongolian men beat out intricate rhythms with bunches of wooden chopsticks, as they imitate the movements of eagles and horses. Some scenes, such as the one in which a young man seeks to gain spiritual perfection through "Tao" but is soon faced with temptation has its humorous side, and two other scenes in which people in China today are persecuted for practicing Falun Gong, a spiritual discipline, are vivid in their poignancy and dramatic intensity.

The entire company makes a concerted impression beating on drums to boost the soldier's morale in a depiction of an ancient battle scene. Enough can't be said about the artistic mission of a company that employs six choreographers. Five composers are credited with contributing the predominantly inspirational songs, as sung by various tenors, sopranos and a contralto. Gifted instrumentalists are also woven into the eclectic mix. Just when you think you've seen it all, including the sight of two wayward (but brilliantly danced) teenagers having a spiritual awakening in an abandoned Buddhist shrine, there was a fireworks display to send 6,000 attendees on their way to have a happy Chinese new year. What? No fire-breathing dragon?

Chinese New Year Splendor
Radio City Music Hall
1260 Avenue of the Americas
Running Time: 3 hours
(212) 465 6115
(Tickets: $58.00 to $280.00)
Performances 01/30/08 to 02/09/08
Evenings at 7:30 Matinee on 02/02/08 at 1:30 PM; on 02/03/08 at 4 PM.
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 01/30/08
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