When the Christmas holiday is over that means the 38th Annual Kennedy Center Honors TV special is close at hand. This annual television event was taped earlier in the month at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. aired Tuesday on CBS. The two-hour star-studded gala featured President Obama and Michelle Obama along with the five honorees: Rita Moreno, George Lucas, Seiji Ozawa, Cicely Tyson, and Carole King.
Sitting high above the stage in the Presidential box were the honorees as each one was given speeches by their colleagues and admirers, followed by musical performances highlighting their esteemed works. Rita Moreno was the first to be shown. Gina Rodriguez, her co-star in CW’s “Jane the Virgin,” gave her introduction speech in the form of a love letter to Moreno.
Broadway’s finest Latino and Latina actors performed “America” from “West Side Story,” where Moreno became the first Latin actor to win an Oscar for her role as Anita. She is only one of 12 EGOT members to have won not only the Oscar, but the Tony (“The Ritz”), two Emmys (guest appearances on “The Muppet Show” and “The Rockford Files”), and a Grammy (Best Recording for Children – “The Electric Company”).
George Lucas was introduced by his fellow film directors Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese. In an unprecedented turn of events, Lucas’ wife Mellody Hobson gave a speech up in the balcony before showing his biographical film. “Star Wars” film franchise actress Carrie Fisher appeared via hologram (just like in the first “Star Wars.”).
Seiji Ozawa is the esteemed conductor for the Boston Symphony Orchestra who was born in China and moved to Japan. He came to Boston just out of college and has stayed ever since. He literally memorizes every masterwork before conducting each performance. Ozawa works harder than all of the classical musicians combined.
Cicely Tyson took time off from her current Broadway show to attend the Kennedy Center Honors. At 90-years young her career began as a hair and all-around fashion model which led to her phenomenal roles in television and films. In Cicely’s Tony-winning Broadway performance in “The Trip to Bountiful,” she sings a hymn at the start of the second act. Gospel singer CeCe Winans performed that same hymn “Blessed Assurance” as a tribute.
Closing out the night was Carole King and members of her biographical Broadway musical “Beautiful.” The actress portraying King used the stage show as a way to showcase her extraordinary musical career in songwriting and recording. Aretha Franklin brought the house down with Carole’s “(You Make Me Feel Like ) A Natural Woman” making the President shed a tear or two.