WASHINGTON — What do you get when you mix musicians, TV personalities, Olympic athletes, military heroes and fireworks together on the same night?
It’s the annual “A Capitol Fourth” ceremony, of course, which is open to the public on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol and broadcast live nationwide on PBS at 8 p.m. on Monday, July 4.
Celebrating America’s 240th birthday, the star-studded event is headlined by Motown legend Smokey Robinson, classic rock hitmaker Kenny Loggins and current rock star Gavin DeGraw.
“They do a great job every year, the producers of this show, of just packing that 90 minutes with incredible talent,” host Tom Bergeron told WTOP. “Ninety minutes, just wall-to-wall good stuff.”
Bergeron, former host of ABC’s “America’s Funniest Home Videos” and current host of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” has hosted the “A Capitol Fourth” show four out of the past five years.
“Glad to be back,” he said. “It is a remarkable show. It’s live TV, which I love, but it’s live TV unlike anything else I’ve ever done in that you’re on the stage on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol with a few hundred thousand of your favorite friends and the U.S. Capitol building as a beautiful backdrop.”
The event will kick off with “The Voice” Season 10 winner Alisan Porter singing the national anthem.
“It’s huge! I’m so, so, so excited,” Porter said. “Just to be doing stuff like this, it’s a dream come true.”
Working with mentor Christina Aguilera, Porter became the first “Voice” winner with a female coach.
“We were really in it together,” Porter said. “We bonded right away, so it made everything a lot easier. She really just encouraged me to be myself and follow my heart and do whatever I wanted, and then she really just helped me get to the heart of everything. Obviously, with notes and runs and everything, she’s the master, so it was pretty cool to have her as my mentor and now as my friend.”
Another “Voice” alum, Season 3 champ Cassadee Pope, will be on deck, along with “Hamilton” star Christopher Jackson, “Glee” star Amber Riley, musical prodigy Jackie Evancho, Tony winner Sutton Foster, Grammy winner Yolanda Adams, the cast of Gloria Estefan’s Broadway musical “On Your Feet” and the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of pops conductor Jack Everly.
“I’m so excited,” Pope said. “It’s an honor to be among all these great artists and just to be in that city for the Fourth of July. It’s gonna be awesome. … I’m going to do my second-to-last single, ‘I Am Invincible.’ I just felt like it was a really fitting song for that, especially with it airing to all the troops.”
Ret. General Colin L. Powell will help salute the 75th anniversary of the USO, the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, and Team USA as it embarks on the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Figure skater Scott Hamilton, who won the gold medal in 1984, will lead the Olympic salute.
“Probably one of the greatest ways to represent the United States beyond the military is as an Olympic athlete,” Hamilton said. “I’m there to introduce the Olympic athletes that will be there as part of this celebration. I did it eight years ago and it was really fun and one of the great memories with my other son, and now I’m going to be with my youngest son and we’re gonna have a blast.”
Those who watched Hamilton skate will never forget his signature back flips, leaving us mere mortals with jaws dropped wondering: How can a human being possibly stick a landing on ice skates?
“I had great coaching throughout my career,” Hamilton said. “If you learn something with good technique and you learn it properly, it’ll be your friend forever. … So I worked with a gymnastics coach for months and months and months, on and off, just getting the movement. Once I got the movement down, the back flip, I took that to the ice. … It took me a year to get the move down.”
While his gold medal victory will always be his crowning achievement, Hamilton says his personal favorite performance came a decade later during his successful run in the professional ranks.
“It was probably the best night of skating competitively I’ve ever put together,” Hamilton said. “The long program, the technical program, was an instrumental kind of big-band [number] and I hit every single jump about as clean as I can skate. The second song was ‘Walk This Way’ by Aerosmith. I always joke that … I’m the performer that did [‘Walk This Way’] the second most to Steven Tyler.”
Steven Tyler may not be involved in this year’s “A Capitol Fourth” celebration, but between Smokey Robinson, Kenny Loggins and the others, it won’t be hurting for starpower. Also participating in this year’s ceremony is the Choral Arts Society of Washington, Patrick Lundy & The Ministers of Music, the U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, the U.S. Army Ceremonial Band and the Armed Forces Color Guard.
As always, the night will culminate in a fireworks display set to Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture,” accompanied by live cannon fire provided by the United States Army Presidential Salute Battery. It’ll all be captured by 20 cameras positioned around the city’s most iconic monuments and landmarks.
“When you see it over the nation’s capital like that, it just takes on a whole new meaning. It’s just spectacular,” Hamilton said. “It’s really a great night of entertainment and patriotism. With the Capitol as the backdrop and the fireworks and everything else, it’s about as good as it gets.”
Not only is it a spectacular night, it’s an important reminder of the freedoms we enjoy.
“We walk around every day and we forget that we’re just so lucky to have what we have and to be free. We take a lot of it for granted without even knowing it,” Pope said. “I think being up on that stage and looking out and seeing all the people being so proud … it’s just going to be such a beautiful moment. It’s going to be one of those moments where I’m just so proud of be an American.”
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