Friday, December 28, 2012

Radio City style evolution

I was Louie the Elf in the Chicago production of the Radio City Christmas Spectacular in 1997 and 1998.  Before a show in 1997, a few of the other elves and I were sitting in our dressing room as some of the dancers from the cast made their way to the stage. At most, the little people cast in the show were in three scenes.  A few of the little people were in just one scene, "Santa's Workshop."  Hence, the little people, myself included, spent a lot of time just sitting around waiting for our scenes.  That's what we were doing that day in 1997 when the dancers filed past our room.  One of them, looking in at us, said something like, "Don't forget to smile."  In a way, the comment was disparaging and disdainful.  While in order to be cast for the show, the dancers and Rockettes needed to be skilled performers, the little people didn't need much skill.  We just needed to be able to move around, and to smile.  That's not to say some of the little people in Radio City shows aren't talented.  Some are very talented.  Some have moved on to act in mainstream movies and theater.  But not much skill was needed to play Louie the Elf, or any of the other elves.  When the dancer made the comment, it was as if he resented us for having it relatively easy on the Radio City set.  If the dancer did have an issue with the elves, he wasn't the only one.  Others have disliked the role because they believe it objectified little people.  Considering we were cast simply because we were little people, there probably is some truth to that belief.

For many years, Little People of America had a working relationship with Radio City.  Radio City would recruit elves at the National Conference.  In 2009, because of concerns noted above (around objectification), the organizers of the national Little People of America Conference didn't invite Radio City back.  After the 2009 conference, Little People of America as an organization passed a resolution that would allow Radio City to return to the National Conference only if employment recruiters from at least three other industries (non entertainment industries) also participated in the conference.  To this point, that has not happened. 

Radio City still performs in Chicago.  For the past two months, once a week while I shop for groceries at the Jewel Food Store, I hear advertisements for the show blasted over the intercom system between songs.  Every time I hear the advertisement, I think of my two seasons with Radio City.  Unlike Peter Dinklage and his triumphs in show business, I made no constructive contribution to awareness around little people while I performed as Louie the Elf, though I did have a very good time. But if I were looking for that same good time today, I wouldn't be able to find it.  A few weeks ago, I found a review of the Radio City show in the Chicago Tribune.  To my surprise, the article indicated that elves are no longer part of the show (for whatever it's worth -- neither are live animals).  I am sure there is no connection between the fact that little people are no longer a part of the Chicago show, and that Little People of America hasn't hosted auditions since 2008.  After all, I am almost positive that the Radio City show in New York still casts elves.  And I am sure Radio City has resources besides LPA Conferences to recruit little people.  Nevertheless, Radio City must have made a conscious decision to no longer include little people in the Chicago show, and perhaps other shows.  For whatever reason the decision was made, I can't help but feel everyone involved, or not involved, is a bit better off with the revised Chicago show.  At least when it comes to the Rockettes, the critic for the Tribune seemed to think so, writing But, "in general, they are more dignified in the 2012 edition of this show than at any of the other 10 times or so I've seen them out there kicking."

No comments:

Post a Comment