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Rockettes Have Gift for Synchronicity, Splash in ‘Christmas’

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SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Nothing beats a great pair of legs. Unless it’s 17 other pairs of gorgeous gams--as sported by those inimitable high-kicking, ever-smiling Rockettes. Talk about paradigms of precision: These women, along with 22 singers and dancers, four kiddies, an ice-skating couple, six little people and the fat man in red himself, returned to the Universal Amphitheatre on Thursday for a 50-show run (with three Spanish-language performances) in their nearly new, and improved, “Radio City Christmas Spectacular.”

There’s something for everyone in this 90-minute extravaganza, including a live orchestra (conducted by Gary Adler), a definite boost from last year’s taped track, enabling the ladies in sequins, feathers and bikini-cut bustiers to up the pizazz ante with authentic rhythmic propulsion.

Under Linda Haberman’s direction, the Rockettes again displayed their famous militaristic steps in “The Parade of the Wooden Soldiers.” Move over Rolex: Exacting and scrupulously performed, this number builds to a perilous domino-falling climax, and the can-can kicking, shoulder-shimmying dancers in “Santa’s Candy Castle” also give great Day-Glo effects. Another Rockette staple finds them in rag-doll mode, loose-limbed, twirling large wooden blocks.

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Also new: “Santa’s Gonna Rock and Roll,” with Brad Oscar ho-ho-ho-ing and singing the praises of Los Angeles, aided by a rapping elf. No Christmas is complete without “The Nutcracker,” and this show’s Cliffs Notes version features Christina Kardambikis executing nimble pointe work amid adorable giant dancing bears.

Lest we forget: The crowd-pleasing camels, sheep and donkeys return for their majestic tableau “The Living Nativity.” Depicting the events on that long-ago Christmas Eve, this opus, featuring Mary, Joseph and a slew of attendants, has more colors than a Benetton ad and is followed by the intonation of the story of Jesus, “One Solitary Life,” which brings the curtain--and the snow--down on a sumptuous holiday treat.

* “The Radio City Christmas Spectacular,” Universal Amphitheatre, 100 Universal City Plaza, Universal City. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 7:45 p.m., also 2:15 p.m. Dec. 16, 21 and 23; Wednesdays, 2:15 and 7:45 p.m.; Saturdays, 12:15, 4:15 and 8:15; Sundays, 11:15 a.m., 2:15 and 6:15 p.m.; Friday, 2:15 p.m.; Dec. 17, 2:15 and 8:15 p.m.; Dec. 20, 7:45 p.m; Dec. 24, 1:15 p.m only; Dec. 27, 11:15 a.m. 2:15 and 7:45 p.m. Performances in Spanish: Dec. 12, 6:15 p.m.; Dec. 20, 2:15 p.m.; Dec. 26, 6:15 p.m. Dark Dec. 25. Ends Dec. 28. $22.50 to $63.50. (213) 252-TIXS.

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