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Audra McDonald joins NBC Christmas special

Audra McDonaldFresno’s Audra McDonald has been added to the lineup for the NBC special “Christmas in Rockefeller Center” to be broadcast at 8 p.m. Dec. 4 on KSEE24. The special airs on KSEE (Channel 24.1) the day before McDonald can be seen in the NBC special “The Sound of Music Live!”

Along with McDonald, the special — hosted by “Today” anchors Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker and Natalie Morales — will include performances by Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Goo Goo Dolls, Ariana Grande, Jewel, Leona Lewis and The Rockettes.

The 81st annual holiday event features a 76-foot Norway Spruce that is 47 feet in diameter and weighs approximately 12 tons. The tree is estimated to be about 75 years old. More than 45,000 energy-efficient multi-colored LED lights will be strung to decorate the tree, topped with a 9 ½ foot wide LED-lit Swarovski crystal star.

The tradition of the Rockefeller Christmas tree dates back to the Great Depression. First erected in 1933, the inaugural tree was decked with 700 lights and placed in front of the then eight-month-old RCA Building (the current GE Building). The Christmas tree gathering was enhanced in 1936 with the opening of the Rockefeller Plaza outdoor ice-skating pond. NBC televised the tree lighting for the first time in 1951 on “The Kate Smith Show” and as part of the nationwide “Howdy Doody” television show from 1953-55.

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