The 25th annual Kennedy Center Honors were presented on Sunday evening, December 8, and among the honorees was Chita Rivera. The Broadway legend was part of a stellar group: Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Simon, James Earl Jones, and James Levine. An edited version of the ceremony will be televised by CBS from 9 to 11pm (ET) on Friday, December 27.
Walter Cronkite hosted. John Travolta led the tribute to Taylor, and the eight-time bride seemed to thoroughly enjoy the performance of Stephen Sondheim's "Getting Married Today" from Company that was dedicated to her; Alice Ripley did a top-notch job of delivering the rapid-fire lyrics, supported by Matt Bogart. Also in Taylor's honor, Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick were joined by the Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, D.C. for "That's What Friends Are For," followed by a rousing "There Is Nothing Like a Dame."
Next up was James Earl Jones, whose career was lauded by Sidney Poitier and then by the trio of Kelsey Grammer (who played Cassio to Jones's title character in a 1982 Broadway production of Othello), Courtney B. Vance (Jones's son in Fences), and Charles S. Dutton.
Harold Prince spoke in praise of Chita Rivera, and choreographer Rob Marshall put together a musical tribute (introduced by Brian Stokes Mitchell) that featured numbers from West Side Story, Kiss of the Spider Woman, and Chicago performed by Charlotte d'Amboise, Donna Murphy, Valarie Pettiford, and a number of gypsies. The sequence, which culminated with "Chita" spelled out in electric lights, proved to be the highlight of the ceremony.
Placido Domingo began the James Levine salute, which included comments by opera lover Rudolph Giuiliani and performances by Frederica von Stade and Bryn Terfel. Steve Martin was extremely funny in speaking about Paul Simon, some of whose songs were performed by Alicia Keys, John Mellencamp, James Taylor, and Alison Krauss. Film and video clips of past honorees concluded the event, which was followed by a dinner-dance.