A Report on Last Night’s ‘A Capitol Fourth’ Rehearsal

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What do you get when you combine Smokey Robinson, Gavin DeGraw, Kenny Loggins, Team USA Olympians, the National Symphony Orchestra, and more? The incredible production of A Capitol Fourth produced by PBS.

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PBS flawlessly orchestrates this massive production annually, which is now in its 27th year and the network’s highest rated show. I was able to get a sneak peak by attending the dress rehearsal last night (pro-tip! The rehearsal is the day prior open to the public every year if you want to skip crowds in 2017). The televised performance will be filmed and aired live tonight on PBS. At press time it is raining, but the show will go on!

Sutton Foster rehearsing. Photo by Marlene Hall.

Sutton Foster rehearsing. Photo by Marlene Hall.

This year’s rehearsal opened with two-time Tony Award winner Sutton Foster performing an energetic (and occasionally acrobatic!) routine to “You’re a Grand Old Flag” with a cadre of strong men. Her voice was powerful and crisp, and her dancing was a joy to watch.

Motown’s Smokey Robinson had the crowd on its feet during the rehearsal.  He sang a medley of his hits including “Tears of a Clown.” His backup singers were clad in white, and they sang flawlessly. Robinson is a musical legend with a perpetual smile on his face.  The Grammy Award-winning artist encouraged the crowd to clap and sing along during his set, and we happily obliged.

 Kenny Loggins in rehearsal. Photo by Marlene Hall.

Kenny Loggins in rehearsal. Photo by Marlene Hall.

Speaking of Grammy winners, the crowd pleasing, two-time Grammy winner and platinum artist, Kenny Loggins, also performed. The ageless Loggins played crowd favorites “Footlose,“ and “Conviction of the Heart” backed by a bassist, drummer, and guitarist.

Loggins encouraged the audience not to forget our military over in Afghanistan and those deployed. He stated that when he gets road wary he remembers that he is not fighting overseas, and is reminded to be grateful. He dedicated “Conviction of the Heart” to our military. He is not slowing down anytime soon and has a new album coming out for children with an aptly titled accompanying book called Footloose.

Gavin deGraw in rehearsal. Photo by Marlene Hall.

Gavin deGraw in rehearsal. Photo by Marlene Hall.

The highlight of the show was the Grammy nominated rock ‘n roll/ blues musician Gavin DeGraw. DeGraw was personable and charming, and was enthusiastic to take part in the event.  Even as the rain started, he took the time to make the attendees feel special, even quickly giving a shout-out to the National Military Family Association after meeting some staff of the organization. He high-fived veterans, and charmed everyone. When told that former Mrs. DC was interviewing him he quipped, “I will need to get your autograph!”

DeGraw came to the event in support of the USO and its 75th Anniversary.  Keep an eye out for his set when you watch the concert tonight. He’ll be performing his song, “Soldier” for the military and the USO.

In addition to all of the great acts above, we were also treated to songs from Glee’s Amber Riley with the Choral Arts Society, and TV’s “The Voice” winners Alisan Porter (season 10) and Cassadee Pope (season 3). As Cassadee sang “I Am Invincible,” Team USA Olympic and Paralympic athletes stood behind her. Gold medal Olympian Scott Hamilton was also in attendance, sharing his passion for helping veterans and urging all of us to vote in the upcoming election.

Host Tom Bergeron. Photo by Marlene Hall.

Host Tom Bergeron. Photo by Marlene Hall.

The production is hosted this year by the inimitable Tom Bergeron, host of TV’s “Dancing with the Stars.” He can ad-lib with the best of them, and keeps the show moving at a steady and entertaining clip. He said it was a true honor hosting the show. He has hosted many times. When I asked him where he got his quick wit, he credited his time in college radio, where things broke all the time.

A Capitol Fourth is an excellent yearly production that showcases the best of American pride and ingenuity. Don’t miss this show!

A Capitol Fourth Broadcasts live on PBS from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol tonight from 8:00 to 9:30 PM.

Meet the performers of tonight’s A Capitol Fourth.

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