Julie Andrews is in the audience rather than on stage, as one of five 2001 Kennedy Center Honorees whose work and lives are celebrated in the annual Washington DC tribute, airing 9 PM (ET) Dec. 26 on CBS.
Andrews, of stage and film fame, memorably played Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, Guinevere in Camelot, "Mary Poppins" and Maria von Trapp in the film, "The Sound of Music" — to say nothing of the crossdressing performer Victor and Victoria on stage and film.
British-born Andrews was celebrated by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and her friends and colleagues Dec. 2 (the citations were presented Dec. 1 at a State Department dinner) at the Kennedy Center's Opera House, with President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush in attendance. Andrews, who moved from the West End to Broadway to Hollywood but returned to the stage in her late-career to play Victor/Victoria on Broadway, is in good company. Other 2001 Kennedy Center honorees are tenor Luciano Pavarotti, producer-composer Quincy Jones, actor Jack Nicholson and pianist Van Cliburn.
The honorees were chosen for "the unique and extremely valuable contributions they have made to the cultural life of our nation."
The two-hour Honors telecast, produced by George Stevens, Jr. and Don Mischer, has been honored in the past with five Emmys for Outstanding Program as well as the Peabody Award for Outstanding Contribution to Television. The Kennedy Center Honors was created by Nick Vanoff and Stevens in 1978. The Honors recipients are recognized for their lifetime contributions to American culture through the performing arts: whether in dance, music, theater, opera, motion pictures, or television. The primary criterion in the selection process is excellence. The Honors are not designated by art form or category of artistic achievement; the selection process, over the years, has produced balance among the various arts and artistic disciplines.
The Kennedy Center Honors Gala (the part the public views) is a fundraising benefit for the Kennedy Center to support its performing arts initiatives, education and public service programming and its national outreach effort, Performing Arts for Everyone, that make the Center's presentations accessible to all.
— By Kenneth Jones