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Here comes the president! No, not that one.

Chris Jackson — who performed George Washington within the unique forged of Hamilton — is striding down the Kennedy Center Honors pink carpet on Sunday with a diamond stud the scale of a Skittle glittering in his ear. The precise president is MIA, as is the First Lady. Such is their commonplace apply for practically each de rigueur presidential engagement. So, how does it really feel to be the one commander-in-chief within the constructing? Jackson throws his head again, laughs, and says, “It’s actually thrilling. Very thrilling.”

Jackson is available to help one of many evening’s least typical honorees: the 4 males who comprise the artistic workforce behind Hamilton. Typically a Kennedy Center award is extra of a lifetime-achievement award, as is the case for 4 of this 12 months’s celebrated artists: Cher, Philip Glass, Reba McEntire, and jazz musician Wayne Shorter. But impressed by the “transformative work that defies class” that’s Hamilton (and/or as a result of they have been hungry for the rankings bump a Hamilton efficiency will certainly present when the present airs on CBS on December 26), the Kennedy Center created a particular award for director Thomas Kail, choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler, music director Alex Lacamoire, and writer-star Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Hamilton’s already received every thing beneath the solar. So though it’s the primary evening of Hanukkah, we pose a really Passover-style query to this foursome: Why is that this award completely different from all different awards?

“What I’m impressed by tonight is how a lot it takes to do what you do,” mentioned Lacamoire, including how a lifetime of coaching, ranging from “all of the apply I did once I was four years previous,” is the one factor that may carry somebody right here. (This prompted Miranda to ask, “You simply noticed that Elton John industrial, didn’t you?” To which Lacamoire replied, “Oh my God, I did.”)

“It’s a bunch award. It’s a celebration of collaboration, which is the one manner musicals get made,” mentioned Miranda. “There’s no lone genius behind any musical, it doesn’t matter what anybody tells you.”

The present itself, hosted by previous Kennedy Center honoree Gloria Estefan, is a lovefest. Everyone will get a standing ovation for every thing. And for those who didn’t understand it was a convention for the president to attend, you most likely wouldn’t have observed his absence. (Nancy Pelosi stuffed his seat.) Such is the enjoyable home state of our present actuality that something might be learn as a subtweet, from Miranda’s Hamilton lyrics —“They’ll be secure on this nation we’ve made” — to Estefan’s opening remarks about “braveness,” “integrity,” and “artwork that breaks by means of boundaries.”

That final concept of artwork as transgressive pressure — in the most effective sense of the phrase, as boundaries current solely till artists push past them for everybody’s profit — recurred all through the evening. It was, in fact, the justification for together with Hamilton within the proceedings within the first place. But it got here up time and again with each honoree, a presumably unintended symmetry amongst a set of various abilities.

McEntire was toasted for her success in a style that also treats ladies as tomatoes in that radio salad when it deigns to play them in any respect — somebody veered from music to theater to tv and would fortunately achieve this once more. (Asked on the pink carpet a few attainable Reba reboot, she grinned and mentioned, “We’re engaged on it.”) Shorter, the jazz marvel, was hailed for “breaking new floor” along with his transcendent music, for crossing genres as simply as stepping over sidewalk cracks. In her remarks about Philip Glass, singer-songwriter Angelique Kidjo spoke of Glass’s “deep data, love, and respect for all of the world’s cultures,” an mental curiosity matched with a real xenophilia that enabled him to compose his singular music. And when Amanda Seyfried took the stage to reward her Mamma Mia 2: Here We Go Again! grandma, she described how Cher “makes the world really feel safer and extra open for lots of people” by means of her music and her advocacy.

In the McEntire tribute, Kelly Clarkson was adorably nervous to be toasting an icon who can be her stepmom-in-law (Clarkson married McEntire’s stepson, Brandon Blackstock, in 2013). “I like you a lot. I hope you take pleasure in this track. Don’t decide me,” she mentioned, earlier than tearing into “Fancy.” (When Clarkson was executed, she added, “I hope I did it justice! She sings it manner higher. This is a lot stress. I’m sweating.”) McEntire’s phase was closed out with the electrical jolt that’s Kristin Chenoweth who, in sparkly stiletto booties and a swinging minidress, sang “Doin’ What Comes Naturally” from Annie Get Your Gun!, wherein McEntire starred in 2001.

Shorter’s performers included Esperanza Spalding, Herbie Hancock, and soprano Renee Fleming, who sang a hovering “Aurora.” Paul Simon popped by to honor Glass, introducing Jon Batiste, who performed a piano solo from Glassworks.

As for Hamilton, the unique Angelica, Eliza, and Peggy — Renée Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo, and Jasmine Cephas-Jones — reunited for a stripped-down rendition of “The Schuyler Sisters,” after which (one other break with custom, as honorees normally keep of their seats) Miranda and Lacamoire joined Jackson and a kids’s choir onstage to sing Washington’s farewell quantity, “One Last Time.”

Cher closed out the evening, as a result of clearly she did. Multiple folks complimented Cher just by saying, “You’re Cher,” as if no different descriptor may suffice.

Whoopi Goldberg, wearing a blinding, all-sequins getup (“I went into your closet,” she defined to the honoree), was the primary to honor “the true unique.” “She not solely marches to the beat of her personal drum — honey, she is a one-woman band.” mentioned Goldberg.

Adam Lambert turned “Believe,” Cher’s auto-tuned dance anthem, right into a wrenching, slowed-down torch track. And Cyndi Lauper — God bless Cyndi Lauper — got here out in these black over-the-knee boots, her white-blond hair an impressive pouf, to roar by means of “If I Could Turn Back Time.”

Earlier on the pink carpet, Cher insisted that awards weren’t one thing that preoccupied her in her 60-some-odd 12 months profession. “I by no means actually take into consideration doing issues for awards, actually. Meryl advised me as soon as, you do issues for the artwork, and for those who get the award, it’s a bonus. And I by no means anticipated to win this award. I simply by no means thought I used to be the precise individual to win this award.”

Why’s that?

“Because I’m just a bit bit on the market. I’m a little bit bit — I’m the woman that rode the canon.”

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