Merle Haggard, Jerry Herman, Bill T. Jones, Paul McCartney and Oprah Winfrey Are the Honorees for the 33rd Anniversary of This Acclaimed Annual Special
Caroline Kennedy Hosts for Eighth Consecutive Year
Performers and Presenters Include Edward Albee, Alec Baldwin, Christine Baranski, Laura Benanti, Matthew Bomer, Carol Channing, Sheryl Crow, Claire Danes, Sutton Foster, Christine Ebersole, Vince Gill, Kelsey Grammer, Dave Grohl, Jennifer Hudson, Kris Kristofferson, Jamey Johnson, Norah Jones, Miranda Lambert, Angela Lansbury, Kendall Marcy, Matthew Morrison, Willie Nelson, No Doubt, Kelli O’Hara, Kid Rock, Brad Paisley, Sidney Poitier, Chita Rivera, Julia Roberts, Chris Rock, Mavis Staples, James Taylor, John Travolta, Steven Tyler, Barbara Walters, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Joyce Garrett Choir, Jerry Herman Tribute Choir, Rob Mathes Band, Tennessee State University Choir and Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C.
President and Mrs. Barack Obama Attend Gala alongside Honorees
Eminent artists, friends and peers of this year’s five honorees—Merle Haggard, Jerry Herman, Bill T. Jones, Paul McCartney and Oprah Winfrey—converged in Washington, D.C., last night (Dec. 5) to present entertaining and heartfelt tributes at THE 33RD ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER HONORS, an entertainment special to be broadcast Tuesday, Dec. 28 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network, with Caroline Kennedy as host for the eighth consecutive year
The annual event recognizes recipients for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures and television. Keeping with tradition, the roster of performers and presenters remained secret prior to the gala and a short biographical film was featured during each honoree’s tribute.
Performers and presenters included Edward Albee, Alec Baldwin, Christine Baranski, Laura Benanti, Matthew Bomer, Carol Channing, Sheryl Crow, Claire Danes, Sutton Foster, Christine Ebersole, Vince Gill, Kelsey Grammer, Dave Grohl, Jennifer Hudson, Kris Kristofferson, Jamey Johnson, Norah Jones, Miranda Lambert, Angela Lansbury, Kendall Marcy, Matthew Morrison, Willie Nelson, No Doubt, Kelli O’Hara, Kid Rock, Brad Paisley, Sidney Poitier, Chita Rivera, Julia Roberts, Chris Rock, Mavis Staples, James Taylor, John Travolta, Steven Tyler, Barbara Walters, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Joyce Garrett Choir, Jerry Herman Tribute Choir, Rob Mathes Band, Tennessee State University Choir and Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C.
President and Mrs. Barack Obama were seated with the honorees in the Presidential Box of the Opera House at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, after having just hosted the traditional White House reception for the honorees.
Host Caroline Kennedy commenced the festivities by quoting her father, President John F. Kennedy, saying, “Nearly 50 years ago, my father said that a nation reveals itself not only by the individuals it produces, but by the individuals it honors. We are here tonight to honor and celebrate accomplished artists who have enriched the life of our country.” She described the five 2010 honorees as “a Florida child who danced his way from the potato harvest to become the theater’s most provocative choreographer; a Jersey boy with a gift for tunes who brightened the musical theater with great ladies like Dolly and Mame; an Oklahoma railroader’s son who loved the sound of the lonesome whistle taking people somewhere else—and captured it in song; a talkative farm girl from Mississippi who kept saying ‘someday I want to make a difference’—and did; and a Liverpool lad with a sublime gift for melody who always lived for tomorrow and made us long for ‘Yesterday.'”
Academy Award and Golden Globe Award-winning actress Julia Roberts opened the tribute to her longtime friend, multiple Emmy Award-winning producer, television host and actress Oprah Winfrey, stating, “It is a universal conversation starter: ‘Did you see what was on ‘Oprah’ today?’ It creates calm at the dentist, makes a friend of a stranger on a bus, binds mothers and daughters of all generations. Oprah Gail Winfrey…I think she is pretty damn close to perfect and I don’t mean boring, run-of-the-mill perfect. I mean fabulous, shining, Margarita-drinking perfect. But as a friend, I must share without giving away too much.”
Roberts continued, “She is tireless, brilliant, hilarious and compassionate. She comes on television every day of the week and is our friend, a teacher, a leader, a listener. The first time I heard about a better fitting bra, the inner workings of Chicago’s sewage system, ‘Favorite Things,’ or a fascinating politician named Barack Obama…was on ‘Oprah.’ She has led and taught and guided us all in such a gentle and consistent way that we have all not only benefited—we have, whether for a moment or a lifetime, become the best we could be.”
Academy Award and Golden Globe Award-winning actor, film director, author and diplomat Sidney Poitier, a Kennedy Center Honoree in 1995 and a friend and mentor to Winfrey, called her “…an inspiration wherever people gather to conquer the complexities of life; wherever they struggle to shape their existence from inhospitable experiences. You are what a social network should be: A network of people bound together by care and compassion, sharing our best moments and our deepest fears, providing comfort and support, by being friends—friends in the Oprah sense—friends, indeed.”
Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe Award-winning actor John Travolta, another close friend of Oprah Winfrey, continued, “I have been so used by Oprah! Oh boy, have I been used. Let me give you just one example: On the day Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf area, my phone rings. It’s Oprah. She says, ‘John, I know you’ve got a big Boeing jet sitting in your backyard. Now here’s what you do, you fill it with medical supplies and you meet me down there.’ And then she added, ‘Now!’ Well, when Oprah calls, you answer! So I got the medical supplies, plus food, doctors and survival equipment. I flew my airplane into New Orleans, and who was there waiting for me? Oprah—with 10 of the biggest trucks you ever saw. Take note, world, that’s how you use people.”
Multiple Emmy Award winner Barbara Walters, a broadcasting legend and inspiration for a young Oprah, was next, saying “Oprah has lived every moment of her life with great courage. She has told the most private things about herself, without ever losing her dignity. That’s what makes her such a sensitive and powerful actress, such a warm and welcoming host, such an easy and caring friend, and, simply put, the best interviewer ever. No one even comes close. Not even me. And if you know me, you’ll know how difficult that was to say.”
Emmy Award-winning comedian Chris Rock then joined Travolta and Walters on stage for a humorous send up of Oprah’s titular talk show. This was followed by a rousing rendition of the song, “I’m Here,” from the Broadway hit, “The Color Purple,” performed by Academy Award and Golden Globe Award-winning actress and singer Jennifer Hudson.
Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actress Claire Danes, who is a Patron’s Circle Contributor to Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, paid tribute to Tony Award-winning dancer, choreographer and director Bill T. Jones by saying, “Bill and I—despite some obvious differences in, say, age, gender, and race—both began our careers in the downtown dance scene in New York City. My debut was at a theater on the Lower East Side when I was 6 years old. I was surrounded by performers on stilts and quacked like a duck. This humble origin—in dance, at least—lead to a humble end. Bill, on the other hand, has become the virtuosic dancer, choreographer and theatre director that we know and love today. To these disciplines, he brings an unflinching honesty, curiosity, and to borrow one of his words, ‘fierceness’…in all of his diverse works, Bill asks a lot of himself and us; he knows that art is not for the faint of heart. But he is there, always inviting us—no, urging us—to dance along with him.” Danes then introduced a poignant performance tribute by the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company.
Multiple Tony Award and Golden Globe Award-winning actress Angela Lansbury, a 2000 Kennedy Center Honoree, took the stage to talk about Tony Award-winning composer and lyricist Jerry Herman’s contributions to the world of musical theater. “I will never forget the first time we worked together. It was ‘Mame’ and what an entrance you gave me…you had me stand at the top of the stairs with bugle in hand, then slide down that long banister into an elegant party singing your great song, ‘It’s Today.’ Now, that was an entrance! Well, ‘it is today,’ and it’s your day! And, who would have thought that 45 years later I would be here joining in this wonderful occasion celebrating your enormous contribution to the American musical theater? Bravo!”
Lansbury continued, “His genius has been to keep one foot firmly planted in the great musical theater traditions, and the other always opening new windows…Jerry’s first Broadway hit was 50 years ago—50 years! But we’re not looking back. The spectacular new revival of “La Cage aux Folles” is packing them in every night on the Great White Way and, because of that, it is a more exciting, more musical, more romantic, more funny and more fun place to be. There’s only one last thing to say: ‘Jerry: it’s so nice to have you back where you belong.'”
With those closing remarks, a rousing musical medley of Herman’s songs began with “We Are What We Are,” from “La Cage aux Folles,” performed by Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor Kelsey Grammer, who is currently starring in the stage revival of the show on Broadway. This led into “Hello, Jerry,” a playful send-up of his famous song, “Hello, Dolly,” with Tony Award and Golden Globe Award-winning actress Carol Channing performing her most famous role. Then, Emmy and Tony Award nominated actor Matthew Morrison showed off his singing and dancing prowess with “It’s Today,” followed by another favorite, “Bosom Buddies,” performed by Tony Award-winning actresses Christine Baranski and Christine Ebersole. Next, Tony Award winner Laura Benanti sang “Time Heals Everything,” followed by Tony Award winner Sutton Foster with “Before The Parade Passes By.” Singers Matthew Bomer and Kelli O’Hara performed “It Only Takes a Moment,” and Tony Award winner and 2002 Kennedy Center Honoree Chita Rivera sang and danced to “I Don’t Want to Know.” The Jerry Herman Tribute Choir performed “I Am What I Am.” In conclusion, Angela Lansbury returned to the stage to perform “The Best of Times” with the rest of the tribute performers.
Multiple Grammy Award-winning country music artist Vince Gill opened the tribute to Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Merle Haggard, saying “I’m proud to be here to see my old friend—on a personal note, my favorite—Merle Haggard receive the Kennedy Center Honor. But I don’t really know what to say. Merle has already revealed everything we need to know about the man; it’s all in his songs. What can I add? I can say that I admire how he writes for all of those who lack voices of their own. Society’s forgotten or pushed aside. He captures their dignity as they struggle to make ends meet as drifters, factory workers, farmhands, fathers, sons and prisoners—as they fight the demons we all know…I know what Merle is thinking right now…he’s thinking, ‘Vince, shut the hell up and get to the music.’ I’m almost there, Hag.”
Gill then introduced a musical tribute to Haggard that began with Golden Globe and Grammy Award winner Kris Kristofferson and Grammy Award nominee Miranda Lambert singing “Silver Wings,” followed by “Workin’ Man Blues,” performed by multi-Grammy winners Vince Gill and Brad Paisley. Up next were multi-Grammy winner Sheryl Crow and 1998 Kennedy Center Honoree Willie Nelson with “Today I Started Loving You Again” and, in closing, Nelson joined Grammy Award nominees Jamey Johnson and Kid Rock for a rockin’ version of “Ramblin’ Fever.”
Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor Alec Baldwin paid tribute to Academy Award and Grammy Award-winning songwriter and musician Paul McCartney, stating “First let’s get this off the table: Paul McCartney is a genius. We’re honoring him here tonight for his achievements in the performing arts. His genius as a maker of music is undisputed, but Paul also has a genius for life, and I think the two are related. Paul never loses sight of what’s important…His great achievement as a musician goes beyond the millions and millions of records sold, and the millions more to come. Paul married rock ‘n’ roll with beauty and forever raised the bar for composers, musicians and fans. Paul, you’ve changed the world, but while everything around you changed, you never did. We honor you tonight for your career as a Beatle, the leader of Wings, an incredible solo performer, the creator of our favorite songs, and, yes, as a Moondog, too.”
The tribute to McCartney began with a rousing performance by Grammy Award-winning rock band No Doubt singing a medley of McCartney hits, including “Hello Goodbye,” “All My Loving” and “Penny Lane.” Next was a tender performance of “Maybe I’m Amazed” by multi-Grammy winners Dave Grohl and Norah Jones, accompanied by the Rob Mathes band. Then, Grammy Award-winning musician Steven Tyler belted out the first-ever live television performance of a medley of songs from the hit Beatles album, “Abbey Road,” including “She Came In Through the Bathroom Window,” “Golden Slumbers,” “Carry That Weight” and “The End.” Finally, multi-Grammy winner James Taylor rocked the house with an amazing performance of “Let It Be” and “Hey Jude,” joined by legendary Gospel singer Mavis Staples, The Joyce Garrett Choir and the rest of the performers, and the audience, for the evening’s rousing conclusion.
THE 33RD ANNUAL KENNEDY CENTER HONORS is a production of the Kennedy Center. George Stevens Jr., who created the Honors in 1978 with Nick Vanoff, produced and co-wrote the show for the 33rd year. Michael Stevens was co-producer and co-writer. This year, the show received an Emmy Award for the second consecutive year for Outstanding Variety, Musical or Comedy Special. The KENNEDY CENTER HONORS telecast has also been recognized with the Peabody Award for Outstanding Meritorious Service to Broadcasting, and seven awards from the Writers Guild of America.
RATING: To Be Announced
Photos of the gala are available at www.cbspressexpress.com.
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