Rider alumna performs in 'Christmas Spectacular' at Radio City Music Hall

Robert Leitner ’17
Kelliann DeCarlo ’13

Kelliann DeCarlo ’13 is on track to perform in 102 Christmas Spectacular shows by the first of January when the production closes.

Kelliann DeCarlo ’13 achieved a festive career milestone when she took the stage as an ensemble singer in the Christmas Spectacular Starring the Radio City Rockettes, a New York City holiday classic.

Since 1933, holiday-enthused audiences have traveled to New York to see the 90-minute spectacular, which features the famous Radio City Rockettes, a new spin on The Nutcracker, the North Pole and, of course, Santa. DeCarlo and the five other ensemble singers kick off the show during the Overture and perform throughout the production before bringing the show to a close with "Joy to the World."

“It’s amazing to be a part of such a joyful experience where people can really be in the moment and celebrate such a wonderful time of year with their loved ones,” DeCarlo says. “The Overture is one of my favorite moments in the show because the sound of the orchestra is simply unmatched, which only adds to the audience’s excitement. It’s also our first moment with the audience, which is always so special.”

A proud musical theatre graduate, DeCarlo notes that her connections with Rider professors were imperative to her success. She singles out Associate Professor Mariann Cook, Assistant Professor Robin Lewis, Assistant Professor Nathan Hurwitz and Adjunct Assistant Professor Louis Goldberg for their particular help.

“Each student in the musical theatre and theatre departments is so lucky to have such incredible professors who make it a priority to stay updated on industry trends," DeCarlo says. "I attribute so much of my success to Rider, not only for honing my talents, but for teaching me how to be a smart actor, singer, and dancer who needs to survive in this business.”

Rider's musical theatre program prepares its students for a professional career in the performing arts through its veteran faculty and engagement with top industry professionals.

“It’s not an easy career by any means,” says DeCarlo, who auditioned twice for the Christmas Spectacular before booking the job. “It can be very inconsistent and difficult. Dealing with so much rejection can get to anyone, eventually. You just have to feel confident in who you are and trust yourself, your skills, and your talent. My voice teacher during my time at Rider, Mariann Cook, told me to always remember that this career is a marathon, not a sprint.”

DeCarlo's passion for the arts keeps her incredibly motivated. Her interest in this career path stems back to her early years where she was constantly surrounded by music. Her father was a retired high school music teacher, director of sacred music and musician himself. Her mother also loves music and still sings regularly to this day. She recalls the vivid memory of seeing her first Broadway Show: “My mom tells the story of bringing me to my first Broadway show, 'Beauty and the Beast' starring Susan Egan,” DeCarlo says. “I was 3 years old and during the show-stopping number ‘Be Our Guest,’ I became so swept up in the music that I stood on my chair and threw my hands up in the air. She says that’s when she knew I was going to end up doing this as a career.”

DeCarlo is on track to perform in 102 Christmas Spectacular shows by the first of January when the production closes. Her first preview performance, for family and loved ones, was particularly special to her. Although DeCarlo’s father, who passed away during her freshman year at Rider, never had the chance to see his daughter's professional success, the preview performance fell on what would have been his 90th birthday, making her sold-out New York City debut even more meaningful.

“It was a very emotional day,” DeCarlo explains. “Obviously I was excited to be performing for 6,000 people and to have this dream job in such a joyful show, but it was also a way for him to be a part of this experience even though he couldn’t physically be there. I felt him with me the whole time.”

DeCarlo also takes great joy in inspiring children sitting in the audience with the holiday spirit. “During the show, the ensemble enters on the side stairs of the theater while the Rockettes are performing. During this time, we are not supposed to be seen by the audience, who are usually watching the Rockettes’ dancing onstage. The children are always the ones to notice us posed in the dark waiting for the lights. They see everything!” DeCarlo says. “Smiling at a child during these little moments can make their whole day, and mine — because I used to be one of them.”

Photo: Orlov