On July 3rd morning rehearsals for the Capitol Fourth took place in front of the US Capitol. Such a beautiful sight yet in heavy heat and humidity! The amount of talent on this stage for this celebration was massive!
Tony and Drama Desk Award nominated Broadway star Kelli O’Hara started out with a rendering of the famous “God Bless America” and patriotic medley. Her voice is pristine and gorgeous. For someone so petite her voice packs a wallop. She sang with a chorus on stage and also marched with the US Army Band surrounded by American flags.
O’Hara introduced her friend, fellow Grammy nominated, Broadway Star and the star of Glee Matthew Morrison. She and Morrison starred on Broadway in Light in the Piazza and Tony Award-winning revival South Pacific. Morrison is surprisingly tall and carries a rock star magnetism. He sang “Still Got Tonight” then was joined by Ms. O’Hara for a beautiful duet from West Side Story, “Tonight.” They had an easy banter about them. It was just shocking that Morrison was in jeans as it was super hot and humid. He even said, “It’s hot out here!” He was handed a small electric fan and he pretended to sing with it. On a side note Morrison is performing July 6 at the DAR Constitution Hall.
Ms. O’Hara performed at the Memorial Day Concert and now the Capitol Fourth. She sat down with reporters to share her thoughts on the concert.
What does it mean to you to be able to not only to sing in Washington on the Fourth of July, in front of the troops and other individuals, but having the Capitol in the background, how does it feel? Well I did the Memorial Day concert here last year. I’ve never quite experienced anything like it. I was unable to do the dress rehearsal because I was working. So when I got here it was the live show and I walked out onto the stage and the Capitol is there and there are thousands of people staring forward and I lost it. It was so heavy, so emotional. And if you have never felt patriotic it certainly will get you the feeling. I grew up doing lots of patriotic things, singing in special events likes this, but never have I’ve been so inspired. It is a wonderful thing for the country to kind of remind them to join together, it certainly did that for me.
How does it compare to the Memorial Day Show? There is a definite difference. Memorial Day concert is in respect of those who sacrificed their lives for this country. There is a somber note to that. So everybody feels that kind of depth of heart. This already just feels light and bubbly and fun, celebratory, and energetic. I can only imagine what it is going to be like with people waving flags with children and fireworks. It bumps everything up a bit. It’s like apple and oranges. It’s not a bad difference. It’s one is very appropriate for one and one is very appropriate for the other.
Childhood memories of Fourth of July? I grew up in a small town in western Oklahoma. It was one of the few times that the entire small town came together in the center of the town with their picnic, blankets, and the kids had sparklers. We would watch the big fire cracker show over the park. I thought that was probably the most fun thing to ever do. I would look forward to it all year. I think that’s what happens with this type of thing. It kind of brings the country all together to one place again whether it be over television sets to celebrate a common cause. We each have our own birthdays, we each have our own holidays, but all of us Americans have Fourth of July. I remember that as what brings us all together and I love that.
Any family members that served in your family? Last year when I was singing for the Memorial Day concert that was very special to me because my grandfather had been in WWII and he died on Memorial Day several years back. So that day not only represents men in the service, he was a man in the service and that’s the day he died. That kind of heaviness rings true on that day. The Fourth of July is more about a celebration. I don’t have anyone presently in the military although I have a lot of friends whose husbands are across the seas right now. It may not touch you specifically, but that doesn’t mean you can forget it. We have to realize that we are all in some way connected to someone who is over there making it possible for us to celebrate the independence that we have. I think it should mean a great deal to everyone. We do this to remind us. I am glad to be doing this to push me more.
Did Matthew Morrison join the Fourth of July Concert because of you? (laughter) I’d like to think that actually. Matt is one of my dearest friends. We worked for many, many years on Broadway together. When I was coming back to do it, anytime anybody would say who do you want to sing with I would say, “My buddy Matt of course!” Now that he is a big star I think they thought, “Well, absolutely, let’s bring him on!” I’m lucky he said yes because I get to sing with him again. I love it! We miss each other too. We used to be together a lot just with working and socially. Now he is in LA and he is all over the world and I don’t get to see him that much. This is a nice reunion.
Will you go on Glee? I don’t know. We’ll see. I’d love it. I love the show. I think it has great messages. Matt is having a great time on it. I would love to at some point.
Next came out Josh Groban. He was also wearing jeans inexplicably in the heat! He was introduced as having sold over 20 million albums worldwide, Grammy winner and having sung at the Vatican, Noble Peace Prize ceremony among many other accolades. He came across as humble, professional and serious. It’s just astonishing someone as young as he is to have accomplished so much (born in 1981). He sang three songs that were very somber. The first song he played at the piano while singing “America” by Simon and Garfunkel. The second song was “The War at Home” which he wrote about the wounded soldiers he has visited at Walter Reed. The third song he sang perfectly which was the classic song “Smile,” which apparently dates to WWII. Groban’s voice is very strong and beautiful. He takes his music and his work with the wounded soldiers very seriously, there was no eye contact made with the crowd and no easy banter on stage. Afterwards Groban did some brief interviews and he left to go visit the troops at Bethesda Naval Hospital. Unfortunately our scheduled interview fell through because he was rushing to go visit the wounded troops. The troops come first anyway! Hats off to you Mr. Groban and thank you for supporting our military.
The last person to come out was actor Jimmy Smits known for his roles on “LA Law,” “NYPD Blue,” and “Star Wars.” He has a commanding presence, but at the same time was having a good time. When he was reading the script about whether everyone is ready to have a good time, he responded tongue in cheek, smiling, “I’m not, I need some water.”
Unfortunately due to the sweltering heat, a newly developed sunburn, and another commitment the writer missed the rest of the rehearsal which consisted of American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, Broadway hit Million Dollar Quartet with Little Richard (he is 80 years old!), Steve Martin and The Steep Canyon Rangers, and Dancing with the Stars’ Mark Ballas and Chelsea Hightower. In addition the concert featured: the National Symphony Orchestra, Herald Trumpets, the US Army Ceremonial Band, US Air Force Band, Ceremonial Brass; Army Trombones, and the Air Force Trombones.
This is a wonderful event and it is so beautiful that these talented men and women come out to the Capitol Fourth to celebrate America and our troops. The talent is not paid and are only given free flight and free hotel is the understanding.