I have reviewed the National Memorial Day Concerts several years in a row and they are always top notch events with distinguished talent. This year, the 29th-anniversary show, is no exception. The concert will take place on the West Lawn of the US Capitol tonight, May 27, at 8 PM, and will be broadcast live on PBS
The list of talent is long: Joe Mantegna, Gary Sinise, General Colin Powell, Allison Janney, Graham Greene, John Corbett, Charles Esten, Brian Tee, Mary McCormack, Cynthia Erivo, Leona Lewis, Megan Hilty, Alfie Boe, Spensha Baker, The National Symphony Orchestra and the Military District of Washington.
The concert movingly honors our military members who have passed away while in service to our country, our active duty, and our veterans. The show spans World War I to the present day Afghanistan/ Iraq conflicts. In addition, the concert honors female veterans by honoring the 70th anniversary of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act.
Joe Mantegna and Gary “Lt. Dan” Sinise handled MC duties with aplomb. Sinise pulls double duty playing two songs with the Lt. Dan Band and military service members. His rendering of “God Bless the USA” brings spine-tingling chills.
Actress Allison Janney, making her first Memorial Day Concert appearance, and actress Mary McCormack, powerfully share a story about Silver Star recipient Leigh Ann Hester, the first woman to receive a Silver Star for combat. They also introduce female military members/ veterans on stage from all branches of service, including General Vaught.
Actors John Tee and John Corbett tap deep into the emotional reservoir recreating the harrowing story of Korean War buddies Joe Annello and Hiroshi “Hershey” Miyamura. Both men endured terrible battles and survived as POWs. Each received a hero’s welcome. Annello received the Silver Star and Hershey received the Medal of Honor, the moment eliciting tears from both recipients. Corbett shared his hopes that by participating in this concert, his art will help others.
Oscar-nominated actor Graham Green of Dances with Wolves echoed Corbett’s sentiments. Several of his family members served in the military and being part of this experience offers him a chance to give back. Greene honors the men and women of the Vietnam War by acting out the story of Purple Heart recipient Bill Rider who had to fight through Post Traumatic Stress (PTS). Rider gives back by helping others with PTS. (This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Khe Sanh.)
The gorgeous costumes and musical performances add even more emotional depth to the stories and the show.