In the magical world of filmmaking, producers often take great liberties with locations, utilizing one city to masquerade as another for various reasons, including budget and convenience concerns. It is commonplace, say, for Chicago, Vancouver and Los Angeles to stand in for New York, where it is notoriously expensive to shoot. (I’m looking at you “Home Alone 2,” “Elf” and “Phone Booth.”) But the Hallmark Channel’s new Christmas movie “A Holiday Spectacular,” which is set in 1958 Manhattan and Philadelphia, perhaps takes the cake for the most liberal handling of locales!
Directed by John Putch, the heartwarming tale focuses on Pennsylvania debutante Maggie Bingham (Broadway’s Ginna Claire Mason in her first onscreen role), who lands a highly-coveted spot dancing with the world-famous Radio City Rockettes after auditioning for their holiday spectacular on a whim. Certain her parents and fiance will disapprove of the endeavor, she sneaks away to the big city alone to line-kick her way through one spectacular Christmas season. The magic of Manhattan and the holidays prove forceful, though, and while there, Maggie winds up finding friendship, purpose and love – her “one last pre-wedding adventure” changing the course of her life.
Mainly shot in New York’s Hudson Valley (along with a handful of scenes captured at the actual Radio City Music Hall), Putch and his team performed quite a feat, authentically bringing mid-century NYC to life onscreen, utilizing such spots as the retro-themed Eveready Diner in Hyde Park, the Cunneen-Hackett Arts Center in Poughkeepsie and the shuttered Karpeles Manuscript Library in Newburgh to create the charming wintry backdrop. For one critical spot, though, the director looked far outside the Empire State – about 5,000 miles to be exact – selecting a historic castle in eastern Europe to portray the elaborate Bingham family estate where Maggie’s parents, Elisabeth (Carolyn McCormick) and Grant (Bryon Jennings), live in classical elegance.