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The Show Goes On at Radio City Music Hall, With Canned Music

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  • The Show Goes On at Radio City Music Hall, With Canned Music

    The Show Goes On at Radio City Music Hall, With Canned Music

    Nov. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Radio City Music Hall's ``Christmas Spectacular,'' a New York City institution for more than 70 years, began its nine-week run today with the Rockettes precision dance team, a ``Living Nativity'' parade of donkeys, camels and sheep -- and recorded music replacing its 35-piece orchestra.

    The 6,000-seat theater, which is owned by Cablevision Systems Corp., opened as planned for its first show at 11 a.m., but security guards turned away tuxedo-wearing members of American Federation of Musicians Local 802, whose walkout last night amid a contract dispute canceled two pre-season performances.

    The show, performed in New York and other cities, is the most-watched live performance in the U.S., seen by 2.1 million people a year, according to a company Web site.

    ``This year's show will be set to a world-class musical score, recorded by a 55-piece orchestra and heard through the most advanced sound system available,'' the company, which charges as much as $250 per seat in New York at the peak of the season, said in a message to patrons on its Web site.

    Radio City officials wouldn't allow reporters to see how many people turned out for the 11 a.m. show, though they said it wasn't sold out. Asked if the theater would offer refunds or exchanges, Radio City spokesman Barry Watkins said the company would discuss the issue with patrons on a case-by-case basis.

    The musicians called the situation a lockout. Watkins said the union had gone on strike by walking out, and ``they can't come back in today without a contract.'' Watkins said discussions were ongoing but wouldn't give specifics.

    Six Shows a Day

    More than 200 performances of the seasonal extravaganza, which began in 1933, are scheduled between now and Jan. 2. There are as many as six shows a day near Christmas. Two shows are scheduled today, the second at 3 p.m.

    The musicians, who had been negotiating with the company since June, mainly over wages and overtime pay, accepted a contract offer from Cablevision on Friday and didn't receive a reply, said Bill Rohdin, a trumpet player. ``We've agreed to their contractual terms, we're ready to go,'' union President David Lennon said. The union's previous five-year labor agreement expired in May, the Associated Press reported.

    ``This is Radio City Music Hall, this is the showcase of the nation, and they're going to put on a tape?'' said John Babich, a bass player for the show.

    ``I feel very sad, sad for the million people who will not see live music if the situation continues,'' said Babich, who said he makes as much as half of his annual income during the show's two-month run.

    One theatergoer, Kathy Guarini of Connecticut, said she wasn't pleased by the development.

    ``I took my day off, I came down here to see a show, and that's what I'm here for,'' Guarini said. ``But what are you going to do?''

    Bethpage, New York-based Cablevision didn't return three calls for comment this morning. Neither the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, representing stagehands, nor the American Guild of Variety Artists, which represents the Rockettes, returned telephone calls requesting comment.

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  • #2
    Fucking union making me listen to canned Christmas music. Fucking brilliant way to destroy my annual pilgrimage to NYC for their Christmas gala. Tragic.