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So, the Kennedy Center is 25. What does it take to celebrate a milestone birthday for the putative shrine of the nation’s culture? We managed to find an early draft of gala producer Fred Rappoport’s gotta-have list. Here are a few of the ingredients—sweet and sour—in no particular order:
•One yellow school bus carrying a swarm of enthusiastic child performers and an aging television newswoman known for questions about oak trees.
•One aw-shucks-adorable tap-dancing urchin, preferably no more than 7 years old.
•Two legendary Princes of Broadway. Hal can natter about the center’s role as a pre-Broadway theater lab, which will be dull but useful for fund-raising purposes; Faith can revive things by singing the hell out of “Adelaide’s Lament.”
•One operatic superstar, ideally a marquee-name tenor with a connection to the Kennedy Center. If, however, no first-rank singers are available because celebration is for some reason scheduled for the same evening as a Metropolitan Opera gala, Kathleen Battle will do.
•One Washington-born performer comfortable in both Broadway and operatic idioms, to sing numbers from Candide and Bernstein’s Mass. Maybe Harolyn Blackwell? She’s genuinely talented, and if we give her the soprano part in “Make Our Garden Grow” for the finale, maybe Kathleen Battle will leave before the curtain call.
•One avant-garde dance company to perform something slightly shocking. (Note: Pilobolus does this inspired fertility thing, but we’ll have to make the guys wear shorts instead of running around with their privates exposed. Can’t have Bill Bennett browbeating us at the post-gala dinner-dance.)
•Two extremely forgiving individuals to sit in the aisle seats in Arianna Huffington’s row. That way we’ll get no complaints when she and Mike don’t come back from intermission schmoozing until after the second act has started.
•Ten concert grand pianos, for a howlingly lowbrow bit involving nine professional pianists and a sitcom star playing “The Stars and Stripes Forever” at breakneck pace. (Note to file: Try to get David Hyde Pierce for this.)
•One smokin’ all-woman jazz ensemble called Diva (No Man’s Band), to perform a knockout “Caravan” and back Dee Dee Bridgewater on “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.”
•One Queen of Soul, who’ll wear big hair and a—how shall we put this—singularly idiosyncratic gown with bustle, and who will do excruciating things to “Somewhere,” from West Side Story.
•One preteen harmonica virtuoso; if his name is Brody Buster, so much the better.
•Approximately 2,000 guests, primarily well-connected political types, leavened with a generous helping of Washington society’s crustiest Cave-Dwellers and a few dozen actual working people (note to ticket office: the latter must sit quietly in the very top balcony where they won’t disturb the Cafritzes).
•One has-been TV personality (maybe Tom Selleck; Friends or not, he’ll always be a has-been to me), to deliver a fatuous speech about the power of film and television to inspire future generations of performing artists. See if he can manage to insult the audience’s intelligence by suggesting that the members of the Dance Theater of Harlem and American Ballet Theater appearing elsewhere on the program might have been moved to study dance after watching reruns of Fame.
•Leonard Slatkin and the National Symphony, to remind the audience that the center really is a first-rate place for the arts. See if Slatkin can get that 13-year-old cello prodigy Han-Na Chang; I hear she’s fantastic.
•Two bright, shiny young Kennedys, to sit picturesquely in the opera house’s presidential box with Colin and Alma Powell.
•One slightly tarnished Kennedy clan chieftain, to remember his older brother’s dream in a speech that, if the cynics will let their guards down for a moment, may even be moving.