Growing up in Chicago, Broadway star Brittney Mack would watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV after her own parade duties were completed. Now she’s preparing to bundle up, take to the streets of Manhattan, and experience the big one for the first time.
Mack, who plays one of Henry VIII’s wives in the hit musical “Six,” is set to perform a live mashup of some of the show’s songs in front of a televised audience of millions on Thursday.
“I’ve got my long johns on, and it’s going to be epic,” she promises. “I get to meet Snoopy for the first time.” To see the big Snoopy balloon, honestly, that’s my dream.” This year, the parade returns to its pre-pandemic form, with its route restored through Manhattan and high-flying helium balloons once again pulled by handlers.
After bowing to pandemic restrictions last year, this year’s parade, the 95th annual, will revert to form. It will include 15 giant character balloons, 28 floats, 36 novelty and heritage inflatables, over 800 clowns, 10 marching bands, and nine performance groups, as well as, of course, Santa Claus.
Ada Twist, Scientist; the pint-sized hero from “The Mandalorian,” and the Pokémon characters Pikachu and Eevee on a sled are among the new balloon giants to join the lineup. Mack and her co-stars have learned new choreography, listened to new music, and will rehearse on the street in front of the department store to get it just right. She’s kindly ordered handwarmers and footwarmers for her fellow “Six” performers, as the weather looks chilly. “I won’t be home to watch it,” she says, “but I think the trade-off is pretty good.”
Her grandmother is filming the parade from Mississippi, while her mother and the rest of her family are watching from Chicago. Mack is used to performing live, but this time is different.
Broadway will be represented by the casts of “Chicago,” “Waitress,” “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” and “Wicked,” in addition to “Six.” The Rockettes, as well as the cast of the upcoming NBC live production of “Annie,” will be in attendance.
Maya Bowles, who will be representing the Tony-winning “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” remembers waking up every Thanksgiving in Atlanta and baking pound cake with her mother while watching the parade before gathering with her family at grandma’s house.
The New York Police Department has stated that, as in previous years, it will block off all vehicle access points to the parade route with sand-filled garbage trucks, other heavy vehicles, and approximately 360,000 pounds of concrete barriers. Thousands of officers, including counterterrorism teams, are assigned to the parade route. There were no specific, credible threats to the parade, according to Police Commissioner Dermot Shea.
There will be new floats led by “Girls5eva” cast members Sara Bareilles, Renée Elise Goldsberry, Paula Pell, and Busy Philipps, as well as Nelly and Jordan Fisher, and Jon Batiste will be on an alligator-themed float celebrating Louisiana’s music, food, and culture.
Carrie Underwood, Jimmie Allen, Kelly Rowland, Rob Thomas, Kristin Chenoweth, Darren Criss, Foreigner, Andy Grammer, Mickey Guyton, Chris Lane, Miss America Camille Schrier, Muppets from “Sesame Street,” and the three past and current hosts of “Blue’s Clues” — Steve Burns, Donovan Patton, and Josh Dela Cruz — will also be in attendance.
Returning balloons include “The Boss Baby,” “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” “Paw Patrol’s” Chase, the Pillsbury Doughboy, Ronald McDonald, “Ryan’s World’s” Red Titan, Papa Smurf, Sonic the Hedgehog, and SpongeBob SquarePants.
The Macy’s parade is a traditional way to kick off the holiday season, with spectators often lining up a half-dozen deep along the route to cheer on about 8,000 marchers, two dozen floats, entertainers, and marching bands.
The usual 2-1/2-mile route through congested Manhattan was scrapped last year in favor of concentrating events on a one-block stretch of 34th Street in front of the retailer’s flagship Manhattan store. Many performances were pre-recorded, and the majority of the parade’s participants were based locally to reduce travel time. Instead of being controlled by handlers, the balloons were tethered to specialized vehicles.