NEW YORK This year's Macy's Thanksgiving parade will march down Broadway on Thursday with a grumpy green Shrek one of three new balloons and the Virginia Tech marching band playing in tribute to victims of last spring's campus shooting.
The 81st annual parade will also feature the cast of "Legally Blonde" minus costumes and props, which are locked behind the picket lines of striking Broadway stagehands.
This year's 11 giant helium balloons include three new ones: William Steig's swamp-loving ogre, "Sesame Street's" fairy-in-training Abby Cadabby and Hello Kitty Supercute, the cape- and tiara-wearing feline superhero.
When the parade gets under way today, it'll be to a Michael Feinstein tune especially written for 600 kids from around the nation whose opening number was choreographed by John Dietrich of the Radio City Rockettes.
Some 10,000 people will march this year, half of them Macy's employees.
Among them will be almost 2,000 cheerleaders, 800 clowns, the Rockettes and 11 marching bands including the Virginia Tech Regimental Band nicknamed the Highty-Tighties on the route from Central Park West to Herald Square in front of Macy's.
Four Broadway shows "Legally Blonde," "Mary Poppins," "Young Frankenstein" and "Xanadu" nabbed coveted positions in the parade, the only annual event besides the Tony Awards where Broadway struts its stuff on national TV.
Because Broadway stagehands are locked in a contract dispute with the League of American Theatres and Producers, cast members of "Legally Blonde" won't be able to use their costumes and props when they perform the show's "What You Want."
The strike has shut down that show, but the other three productions in the parade have not been affected because their theaters have separate contracts with the league.
"We're going to have a national spot on television and we're going to be half represented," said Jerry Mitchell, "Legally Blonde's" director and choreographer. "We're going to be the only musical performing without our props and costumes, which I find very disheartening."
They planned to use replacements, which most spectators likely won't notice since the lead role involves a law student who loves to wear pink.
Because anyone appearing in the parade falls under a TV contract with the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, "Legally Blonde" performers will not be crossing picket lines by marching, according to their union, Actors' Equity.
The parade will be televised nationally on NBC from 9 a.m. to noon in all time zones, with areas of the country not on Eastern time watching a taped version.