See the stars of Radio City Music Hall

The beauty and history of Radio City Music Hall can be lost in the excitement as people flood its foyers, lounges and theater. However, the Radio City Stage Door Tour offers visitors the opportunity to travel back in time to experience what Radio City once was.

The tour guide began by taking visitors to the early 1930’s when Radio City Music Hall first became the theater that it is today.

In 1928 John D. Rockefeller leased a plot of land from Columbia University in hopes to build an opera house on the site. Originally Radio City was known as the Music Hall in Rockefeller Center. It was later named Radio City Music Hall, and is now located in the 19 building complex that is Rockefeller Center.

In 1999, the entire Music Hall was renovated and restored to its original splendor.

Samuel Lionel Rothafel, known as Roxy, is the inspiration behind Radio City. Rothafel enlisted the help of Donald Deskey, an interior designer with an art-deco background that matched the vision Roxy had for the theater. The Rockefellers were so pleased with what Roxy did with Radio City they gave him his own apartment in the Music Hall.

Roxy’s apartment offers one of the most interesting aspects of the tour. First viewers see a photo of Roxy eating dinner with Vincent Minnelli and Judy Garland, and shortly after they find themselves around that same dinner table.

Roxy’s original furniture sits in the living room, which also contains a guest book signed by celebrities such as Mo’Nique, John Legend and the Nixon family.

The main attraction of Radio City Music Hall is the Grand Stage where all the entertainment takes place. The vision of the grand stage came to Roxy on his return from Europe where he watched the sun set over the water. Once aware of this vision, the colors and shape of the Grand Stage mimic the yellows and oranges of a sun set.

Guests were then led to an area one would never witness on an average trip to Radio City Music Hall: beneath the stage.

During the Christmas Spectacular, the area beneath the stage houses the animals from the living nativity scene. Except for the camels, the tour guide added: “they are divas; they have private quarters stage level.”

Next on the tour: the men and women’s restrooms. These lounges are actually some of the most extravagant and lavish areas in the theater. They are equipped with lush couches and chairs, vanity mirrors and toilets with plastic seat coverings that dispose themselves after each flush.

Of course, the tour also provided a history of the Rockettes and how they landed their gig at Radio City. In 1925, a man named Russell Marker took a trip to England and witnessed dancers called the Tiller Girls. He enjoyed them so much he returned home to St. Louis and started his own dance troop called the Missouri Rockets.

Roxy found out about these dancers, brought them to Radio City and renamed them the Roxyettes. After Roxy left in 1934, Marker took the original name back but then decided it was too masculine, leaving the legendary name, The Rockettes.

Along the tour a Rockette introduced herself to the visitors. When asked if she ever grows tired of Christmas, she laughed and said, “(Christmas is) part of our job; we start Christmas in September, but it is nice to listen to other Christmas carols outside of work.”

The beauty of Radio City Music Hall cannot be solely explained in words; it is something to be witnessed.

For more information on the Radio City Stage Door Tour visit Radio City’s website.

Nicole Bitette can be reached at

Author: Staff Writer

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