Star-Spangled Banter

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By Kimberly M. Holland
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, July 1, 2007

"In a lot of ways, I really am the American dream," Tony Danza said. "I'm the son of an immigrant from Italy, and my father was a garbage man for the city of New York, and so for me to be dancing in front of the Capitol, that says something."

Danza hosts this year's PBS production of "A Capitol Fourth." The former boxer turned actor ("Taxi," "Who's the Boss?") said he will kick off the night in grand style, replete with singing and dancing.

The aim of the evening, Danza said, "is to pay tribute to the country, to just raise our voices and our spirits in unison, to say how much we love this place and how much it means to us -- and to say happy birthday to it."

Jerry Colbert, the program's founder and executive producer, called this year's emcee Mr. Enthusiasm, remembering the last time Danza hosted the celebration in 1998. At that year's rehearsal, everyone stopped at intermission -- except for Danza.

"He stayed up there and talked to the audience the whole time and told jokes," Colbert said. "This guy loves it. He's up there on the stage, and he doesn't want to get off, so that's the kind of enthusiasm we like."

Among the performers for "A Capitol Fourth," which airs live from the West Lawn of the Capitol, will be former "American Idol" contestant and Richmond native Elliott Yamin; "Heroes" star Hayden Panettiere; gospel singer Yolanda Adams and Tony Award winner Bebe Neuwirth.

Conductor Erich Kunzel will lead the National Symphony Orchestra in a tribute to the 50th anniversary of "West Side Story."

In keeping with the event's 27-year tradition, the evening will conclude with Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture," accompanied by live cannon fire and a display of fireworks over the Washington Monument.

Nearly two dozen different agencies, including the Metropolitan Police Department and the National Park Service, come together for the production of "A Capitol Fourth," Colbert said.

"People don't do live anymore. But I think big events like this -- when they're live and you see people there having fun and dancing, and they're there with their families, singing patriotic songs, and they're on their feet with the flag waving -- you know, that's infectious. And I think all that enthusiasm is what translates into fun," Colbert said.

"That night the Capitol lawn will be my house," Danza said. "It's my job to make sure everybody's comfortable and has a good time."

A CAPITOL FOURTH

Wednesday

8 p.m., PBS


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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