The Kennedy Center Honorees were saluted by stars from around the world at a gala ceremony at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Dec. 8.
The evening before, at a State Department dinner, the five honorees were presented with one of the country's highest honors. This year's recipients included Tony Award winners Chita Rivera and James Earl Jones, actress Elizabeth Taylor, singer-songwriter Paul Simon and conductor James Levine.
President Bush and the First Lady attended the gala ceremony at the Kennedy Center's Opera House. Earlier in the evening, Bush addressed the five artists at a White House reception. "This year we've brought together in one room a legend of Broadway," the President said, "the conductor of the Met, the composer of 'Mrs. Robinson,' the face of Cleopatra and the voice of Darth Vader. Each one of you is known to the American people in a way that runs deeper than fame."
The tribute to Chita Rivera — a Washington-born artist — included Donna Murphy's rendition of "Kiss of the Spider Woman," Valarie Pettiford's "All That Jazz" as well as 83 dancers who performed West Side Story's "America." Man of La Mancha's Brian Stokes Mitchell, director Harold Prince, Chicago's Charlotte d'Amboise and dancer Desmond Richardson also saluted the Tony Award-winning singer-actor-dancer.
Charles S. Dutton and Kelsey Grammar led the salute to James Earl Jones, and the evening also included appearances from John Travolta, Steve Martin, The Gay Men's Chorus of Washington D.C., Rudolph Giuliani, Frederica von Stade, Bryn Terfel, James Taylor, John Mellencamp, Alison Krauss, Alicia Keys,the Dixie Hummingbirds and Broadway's Alice Ripley, who reprised her version of "Getting Married Today" for honoree Elizabeth Taylor. CBS will air "The Kennedy Center Honors" on Dec. 27 at 9 PM ET.
Born Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero in 1933, Chita Rivera is one of the theatre's most acclaimed performers. She has won Tony Awards for her performances in two Kander and Ebb musicals, The Rink and Kiss of the Spider Woman, and was also nominated for her work in Bye Bye Birdie, Chicago, Bring Back Birdie, Merlin and Jerry's Girls. Rivera's other Broadway credits include the musical Seventh Heaven, her Broadway debut; Mr. Wonderful; the original production of West Side Story; and Bajour. She appeared in the film version of "Sweet Charity," starred in the world premiere of Kander and Ebb's The Visit, and recently headlined Bernarda Alba at the Mark Taper Forum.
James Earl Jones won his Tonys for The Great White Hope and Fences. His other Broadway credits include Sunrise at Campobello, The Cool World, Infidel Caesar, Danton's Death, A Hand Is on the Gate, Les Blancs, The Iceman Cometh, Of Mice and Men, Paul Robeson, A Lesson from Aloes, Othello and MASTER HAROLD . . . and the boys.
Last year's recipients included Julie Andrews, Van Cliburn, Quincy Jones, Jack Nicholson and Luciano Pavarotti.