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Jimmy Smits hosts “A Capitol Fourth” On PBS -July 4th at 8 ET

Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning actor Jimmy Smits returns to host the biggest and brightest birthday party in the country, A CAPITOL FOURTH, featuring for the first time ever, Barry Manilow, who will both open and close the concert broadcast with a stirring medley of hits and patriotic classics along with the National Symphony Orchestra and the Choral Arts Society of Washington. He will be joined by the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, international pop sensation Natasha Bedingfield, the Tony and Grammy Award-winning cast of Jersey Boys, multi Grammy Award-nominee Michael Feinstein and acclaimed classical pianist Andrew von Oeyen. This star-studded cast will light up the stage on the West Lawn of the United States Capitol for the 29th annual A CAPITOL FOURTH celebration featuring unrivaled musical performances with the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of America’s prince of pops Erich Kunzel.

As a special treat for the entire family, Elmo, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch and more of the SESAME STREET gang will be on hand to celebrate America’s 233rd birthday. The Muppets will perform a musical medley of patriotic favorites as well as iconic songs that we all know and love from this breakthrough children’s television series that is celebrating 40 years of fun and learning. The multi-award winning A CAPITOL FOURTH, featuring the most spectacular fireworks display anywhere in the nation, will be broadcast live in high definition and commercial free on PBS Saturday, July 4, 2009 from 8:00 to 9:30 p.m. ET (check local listings) before a concert audience of hundreds of thousands, millions more at home, and around the world to our troops on the American Forces Radio and Television Network. A CAPITOL FOURTH can also be heard live in stereo over NPR Member stations nationwide.

The skyline of the nation’s capital will come alive with vibrant and booming pyrotechnics, set against silhouettes of national landmarks the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials. A Capitol Fourth will capture this stunning fireworks display from every vantage point with eighteen TV cameras stationed around the city – including the U.S. Capitol, the White House, the Washington Monument and across the Potomac River. Capping off the show will be a rousing rendition of Tchaikovsky’s “1812 Overture” complete with live cannon fire provided by the United States Army Presidential Salute Battery, an audience favorite and now A Capitol Fourth tradition. Also participating in the event will be The U.S. Army Herald Trumpets, The U.S. Army Ceremonial Band, The U.S. Army “Old Guard” Fife and Drum Corps and the Armed Forces Color Guard provided by the Military District of Washington, D.C.

Commented Smits, “I am honored to be asked once again to host this year’s special party to celebrate our great country’s birthday…and what a ‘guest list!’ The music itself embraces so many genres – we’ve got pop, we’ve got classical and we’ve got soul. Throw in an anniversary celebration of Sesame Street, topped off with the biggest fireworks display around and we’ve got quite a show!”

For A Capitol Fourth executive producer Jerry Colbert has assembled an award-winning production team that features the top Hollywood talent behind some of television’s most prestigious entertainment awards shows. This includes Emmy award-winning producer Walter C. Miller, American’s leading director and producer of live programs including the Grammy Awards and Country Music Awards; award-winning director Paul Miller whose credits include the Country Music Awards and Saturday Night Live; and veteran television writer Jon Macks, whose credits include the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the Academy Awards and the Emmy Awards. The program is a co-production of Jerry Colbert of Capital Concerts and WETA, Washington, D.C.

We recently caught up with Elmo and Big Bird to talk about their upcoming performance in A CAPITOL FOURTH and their thoughts on being in the nation’s capital for Independence Day.

Q: Why are you coming to Washington D.C for Independence Day?

Elmo: Elmo is coming for the fireworks.

Big Bird: I love the fireworks but I’m also coming because I want to see the big Capitol building.

Elmo: Its pretty, isn’t it?

Big Bird: And big!

Q: Elmo you’ve performed in front of the Capitol before on A CAPITOL FOURTH, what was that like?

Elmo: It was so cool because a lot of Elmo’s friends got to sing with Elmo and Elmo got to see the fireworks and sing with that wonderful orchestra!
Q: This year, in addition to Big Bird, who are some of your other friends from SESAME STREET are going to perform at A CAPITOL FOURTH?

Elmo: A lot of our friends are coming. Isn’t that right Big Bird?

Big Bird: Yes, Rosita’s coming and Abby Cadabby and Oscar the Grouch too- he’s such a sweetie!

Elmo: Cookie Monster’s coming too. He’s looking forward to the cookies with the stripes and the stars on them.

Q: Big Bird, what do you think is going to be special about celebrating Independence Day in Washington D.C?
Big Bird: Well I think it’s very special for us to be celebrating America’s big birthday party in Washington D.C. because that’s where America gets governed.
Elmo: Governed?

Big Bird: It means a government and we’re a democracy.
Elmo: Democracy.

Big Bird: I see you have a lot to learn Elmo.

Q: Elmo, what sort of things make you think of the Fourth of July?

Elmo: Wonderful songs like “You’re a Grand Old Flag… you’re a high fiving flag.” Elmo loves that song.

Elmo: What about you Big Bird?

Big Bird: I like singing songs too.

Q: A CAPITOL FOURTH has some very special guests coming to perform this year including Aretha Franklin, Barry Manilow and Natasha Bedingfield. Who are you excited to meet and why?

Elmo: Boy that’s a lot of really special guests! Elmo hopes that Miss Aretha Franklin wears that same hat that she wore at the Inauguration, it was really pretty. But Elmo would love to meet Mr. Barry Manilow too.
For more than 25 years, Capital Concerts has produced the two major patriotic events at the U.S. Capitol. In 1981, Colbert presented the first PBS Fourth of July telecast with the National Symphony Orchestra and guest artists performing live from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol.

In 1990, he introduced the National Memorial Day Concert. Since then, both holiday specials have been honored with over 80 awards including the New York Film Festival Award, the Telly Award, the Golden Cine Award, the Videographer Award, the National Education Association Award, the Aurora Award, the Christopher Award, the Communicator’s Award, the AXIEM Award, the Omni Award and the Writer’s Guild of America Award.

A Capitol Fourth 2009 is made possible by grants from The Boeing Company, the National Park Service, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Department of the Army, the National Endowment for the Arts, PBS and public television stations nationwide. Air travel is provided by American Airlines.

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