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L.A. musicians union objects to lack of live music in touring Rockettes show

December 10, 2010 |  4:07 pm

Rockettes

When the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular opens in Los Angeles Friday for a three-day engagement, it will be greeted by fans and families who came to experience festive holiday entertainment. The show will also be greeted by local union members who aren't pleased that producers have decided to use pre-recorded music instead of live musicians.

The touring version of the Christmas Spectacular plays through Sunday at the Nokia Theatre in the L.A. Live complex in downtown L.A. The show, which stars the famous Rockettes, is a version of the annual holiday production that takes place at New York's Radio City Music Hall.

L.A.'s Professional Musicians Local 47, a branch of the American Federation of Musicians that represents thousands of professional musicians in Southern California, said Friday that it is unhappy with the use of pre-recorded music and that representatives of the union will be handing out fliers near the Nokia Theatre. 

"It's not about bashing the Rockettes. We all love the Rockettes. It's our concern about the absence of live music," said John Acosta, vice president of the Local 47, in a phone interview.

Acosta said that the New York version of the show uses live musicians while the touring version uses taped music as well as a soundtrack featuring voices and tap-dancing sounds.

A spokeswoman for Madison Square Entertainment -- the company behind the touring show -- issued a statement Friday saying that the touring production of the Christmas Spectacular "was designed specifically for the use of recorded music."

MSE also said that the recorded music features a "56-piece orchestra and state of the art audio technology [to ensure] that our patrons experience the highest sound quality."

When the touring show played in Boston earlier this month, the Boston Musicians' Assn. voiced similar complaints about the use of pre-recorded (or "canned") music. The union reportedly launched an aggressive campaign on the radio and in person around the city.

The L.A. union said it plans to take a more low-key approach to their protest. "We are going to approach management afterward to see if we can come to an agreement," said Acosta.

The union said that major musical touring shows that come through the Pantages Theatre or the Ahmanson Theatre usually employ local musicians.

-- David Ng

Photo: members of the Rockettes at an event in New York. Credit: Timothy A. Clary / AFP/Getty Images

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