Thursday, November 22, 2007

Everyone loves a parade

While I've never been in a parade, I do like watching them. And if I can't be in New York City, turning on the tv to watch the 81st Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade is a pretty good substitute. As cohost Meredith Vieira says, it's become an American tradition.

Normally, I'm more of a Tournament of Roses fan. The Macy's parade, because it's sponsored by a department store and takes place at the beginning of the holiday shopping season, is a lot more commercial. The floats, many of which feature New York-centric themes, including the Statue of Liberty, skyscrapers and Broadway, aren't quite as spectacular.

Still, I love the marching bands, the giant helium-filled balloons flying ovherhead, the tap-dancing Christmas trees, (who tap the entire length of the parade route), the mix of rock, pop, show tunes, country, r&b, the now-required American Idol winner, and the Radio City Rockettes. It's like a microcosm of America. Where else can the tattooed hard rockers Good Charlotte coexist with the freshly scrubbed cast of Up With People?

If you missed it, here are some of my highlights:

Bob Saget, starring on Broadway as "The Drowsy Chaperone's" Man in Chair, took a prerecorded helicopter ride over midtown Manhattan. He gave us a bird's-eye view of the 2 1/2-mile parade route, from the Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side, down Broadway, through Times Square and ending at Herald Square. I had a great time walking the same route in reverse during my April trip to New York.

In addition to the Tony Awards, this is Broadway's other annual moment to strut its stuff in the national spotlight. There were performances by the casts of four Broadway shows: "Xanadu," "Legally Blonde," "Mary Poppins" and "Young Frankenstein. As always, Gavin Lee's Bert the chimney sweep is charming in "Mary Poppins," and Matthew Bourne's choreography is so energetic and inventive, even if we only got a small taste of it. And once again, Christopher Fitzgerald, "Young Frankenstein's" Igor, steals the show.

Of the four, "Legally Blonde" is the only one shut down by the stagehands' strike. Cast members couldn't perform in their costumes, but having seen the show on MTV, I thought they looked fine in their T-shirts. I haven't seen "Xanadu," but the roller skating was kind of fun to watch. (And even without roller skates, costar Cheyenne Jackson is fun to watch!)

I knew about the Broadway shows, but I didn't expect to see Jonathan Groff and Lea Michele, from "Spring Awakening," on the M&Ms float singing "Give My Regards to Broadway." That was quite a treat. The M&Ms "spokescandies" portrayed scenes from some of Broadway's biggest hits. It was kind of cute the way they held up 8 1/2 by 11 glossies of themselves in front of their faces, just like the dancers do in "A Chorus Line."

Of course, the giant balloons, including Kermit the Frog, Scooby Doo, and Snoopy, along with two new entries: Shrek, and from artist Jeff Koons, a shiny silver rabbit, are always a highlight of any parade. Mr. Potato Head appeared to help promote the International Year of the Potato, which is 2008. (You knew that, didn't you?)

I'm especially fond of Kermie, and I've seen the original at the Smithsonian. I've got nothing against Ronald McDonald, and of course I admire the work Ronald McDonald House Charities does on behalf of sick children and their families. But am I the only one who thinks that a gigantic Ronald McDonald floating overhead isn't an especially friendly looking clown?

The marching bands always have interesting stories: members of the Ooltewah High School band from Chattanooga, Tenn., rode 16 hours on a bus for their first trip to New York City; the Virginia Tech Highty-Tighties marched in a missing-man formation to remember those who died in the mass shooting at the school earlier this year; the director of the Concord High School band from Elkhart, Ind., Gay Burton, is the only female band leader in the parade.

Fittingly for a Thanksgiving parade, there was a Native American presence. The Cherokee National Youth Choir sang "Jingle Bells" in the Cherokee language. Also fittingly, the University of Oklahoma band, the parade's biggest with 620 members, played "Oklahoma."

I didn't mind the banter from Vieira, Matt Lauer and Al Roker. And I expected the constant plugs for NBC shows. (I liked seeing Jane Krakowski from one of my favorite shows, "30 Rock.") But I think the trio could have stayed with the New York Police Department's band a little longer before breaking away to promote a contest on the Web site And Matt, really, did you have to refer to the Mike Miller Dance Team as "all-girl dancers?"

The climax of the parade is the appearance of Santa and his reindeer, complete with children in costumes that look like Christmas presents. Let the holiday shopping season begin!

No comments: