The 2009 Kennedy Center Honorees, from left, Grace Bumbry, Robert De Niro, Bruce Springsteen, Mel Brooks, and Dave Brubeck share a laugh at the State Department following the Kennedy Center Honors Gala Dinner. The Kennedy Center Honors special will air tonight on CBS. (Associated Press photo)
The 32nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors will air from 8 to 10 tonight on CBS, with Caroline Kennedy as host for the seventh straight year.
This year’s honorees are award-winning writer, composer, actor, director and producer Mel Brooks; acclaimed actor, director and producer Robert De Niro; celebrated singer/songwriter/musician Bruce Springsteen, pianist and composer Dave Brubeck; and opera singer Grace Bumbry.
Eminent artist friends and peers of the five honorees converged Dec. 6 in Washington, D.C., to present entertaining and heartfelt tributes for tonight’s TV special. This marks the 32nd anniversary of this special, which has been broadcast on CBS each year since its debut in 1978.
This 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 remains secret prior to the gala, and a short biographical film is featured during each honoree’s tribute.
Performers and presenters this year included Roger Bart, Gary Beach, Jack Black, Matthew Broderick, Harry Connick, Jr., Cory English, Simon Estes, Melissa Etheridge, Aretha Franklin, Angela Gheorghiu, Herbie Hancock, Ben Harper, Shuler Hensley, Harvey Keitel, Ron Kovic, Jane Krakowski, Richard Kind, Frank Langella, John Mellencamp, Matthew Morrison, Jennifer Nettles, Edward Norton, Carl Reiner, Stephen A. Schwarzman, Martin Scorsese, Martin Short, Jon Stewart, Ben Stiller, Sting, Sharon Stone, Meryl Streep and Eddie Vedder.
President and Mrs. Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden 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 attended the traditional White House reception for the honorees.
Host Caroline Kennedy described the five 2009 honorees as “a piano virtuoso from the California hills whose inspired rhythms made him America’s herald of a new age of jazz; a good fella from the mean streets of New York who redefined acting and made movie audiences an offer they couldn’t refuse; the little girl from a St. Louis church choir who could hit high C and became the diva we cheered in the houses of grand opera; a mischievous boy from Brooklyn who provoked billions of laughs by walking loudly and carrying a big schtick; and a rocker from the Jersey Shore who composed his own musical universe and – across America and the world – became the Boss.”
For more TV news, check out Penny Soldan’s informative blog at http://blog.newsok.com/television.