WASHINGTON – Stifling humidity and the threat of heavy rain didn’t stop singers and performers,including the Four Seasons’ former front-man Frankie Valli and “Dancing with the Stars” host Tom Bergeron,from performing a test run Thursday for the 34th annual Capitol Fourth Concert on Friday.
The Thursday pre-show gave the stars a chance to work out last-minute errors and warm up their vocal cords.
The main Friday event is expected to draw more than 300,000 people to the Capitol’s West Lawn and will feature popular performers Jordin Sparks,the Muppets,Frankie Valli,Phillip Phillips,Kelli O’Hara and Patti LaBelle. They will be joined by the National Symphony Orchestra and the Choral Arts Society of Washington.
The concert will start at 8 p.m. and will be broadcast live by PBS. A fireworks display will take place after the concert.
The Thursday preshow gave Bergeron a chance to fix typos in his script and practice a skit with the Muppet Show characters he will perform with on Friday.
“The best thing about hosting is the location,” Bergeron said. “The hardest thing is getting in a suit in July in Washington.”
The pre-show gave the performers the opportunity to have a sound check and memorize where they will be standing and who they will be talking to.
Kendall Schmidt,a singer in the band Big Time Rush,had the first sound check Thursday morning to audience of cameramen and event staff. Schmidt,originally from Kansas,took a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to get to the Capitol on time. For him,the best thing about the concert is also the location.
“It’s very evident in all the buildings here – the history. I think that’s the most important thing to me is the history,” Schmidt said. “I’m like fifth-generation American now – I’m proud to be here.”
Blues and pop singer Patti LaBelle traveled from New York to Washington by train. She said she didn’t mind the heat and was happy to have finally been invited to perform at the Capitol Fourth Concert – something “she always wanted to do.”
LaBelle has been singing for 52 years and said she hopes that the audience will connect with her music.
“I hope they get the truth from Patti Labelle. This is all I can do is sing,sing,sing. I mean not all I can do,but this is what I love,” La Belle said.
Preparations for the concert take roughly eight months,event executive producer Jerry Colbert said. He and his staff raise money,hire all of the stars and accommodate security regulations of the National Park Service and the U.S. Capitol Police. It takes 55 truck trailers of equipment and 500 staff members to assemble the concert stage.
But in the end,Colbert said,it’s all worth it.
“At 8 o’clock on the Fourth of July when all the bands are here and people are on their feet singing the national anthem – now that’s a joyous moment,” Colbert said. “This has been going on in my head all year and all the sudden,eureka – it’s live!”
The concert is focused on tradition,Colbert said. Many of the stage props have been re-used.
Timothy Staples,37,a scene artist employed by Capital Concerts,hand painted the wooden red,white and blue stage backgrounds that will be located behind the performers for the July Fourth concert for the 12th year.
Using a makeshift workshop of paint and tape under the concert stage Thursday,he repainted parts of the set and taped up damaged areas.
“I come out every year and make sure the set is up-to-date and fresh,” Staples said.
The best of the concert for Staples is his colleagues. “Everybody here is a family. We all work together. It’s a good opportunity.”
Reach reporter Anna Giles at [email protected] or 202-326-9861. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.