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For some, a first inauguration is like a wedding; the second, like an anniversary, awakening less interest.

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Clinton Gala To Bring In 'Da Noise

By Roxanne Roberts
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 7 1997; Page E01

A little bit country, a little bit rock-and-roll. And gospel, folk and Broadway. This year's Presidential Gala, the celebrity salute to Bill Clinton on Sunday, Jan. 19, is shaping up to be another star-studded traffic jam.

Inaugural organizers yesterday confirmed that Michael Douglas, Whoopi Goldberg and Candice Bergen will serve as co-hosts for the two-hour show at USAir Arena. Stevie Wonder, Trisha Yearwood, Kenny Rogers, Aretha Franklin, James Taylor, Bernadette Peters and Sandi Patti will sing. Mikhail Baryshnikov will dance. Kenny G, Yo-Yo Ma and the Dave Matthews Band will perform, along with the cast of the Broadway musicals "Chicago" and "Bring In 'da Noise, Bring In 'da Funk."

The bad news is that only 11,000 of the president's supporters can buy a ticket for the 5 p.m. inauguration eve performance. The good news is that the show will be broadcast on CBS later that night, and a few Washingtonians will be able to snag a ticket for the gala's free dress rehearsal on Jan. 18.

Like the rest of the official inaugural events, the show, "An American Journey," takes a tour through the country's history and culture.

"We look for a combination of artists who really fit into this kind of an event, in addition to ones who are clearly popular," producer Gary Smith said.

They are also some of the president's favorite entertainers. Franklin is the only singer who performed at Clinton's 1993 Presidential Gala, as well as the public concert at the Lincoln Memorial and three inaugural balls. Peters performed for the president at a state dinner earlier this year, and Douglas became a White House favorite for his portrayal of the charming chief executive in "An American President."

"I've performed in front of audiences since I was 3 1/2 years old. But it is a special experience to perform for the president of the United States," said Peters, who is filming a movie in London. "It was an honor to be asked to perform at the White House last May, but to perform at the inaugural is something else."

Tickets for a seat with the Clintons and Gores at the invitation-only gala are selling for up to $3,000 each. Inaugural organizers say the profits will be used to fund public events on the weekend before the swearing-in on Monday, Jan. 20. "This audience is not coming to a TV taping," said Smith, who has two other Presidential Galas and three Democratic National Conventions under his belt. "This is one of the most formidable entertainment events that occurs every four years."

The show will open with Peters and 300 college freshmen: the "Class of 2000." Students from Georgetown, George Washington, Catholic, American, Howard and other universities will represent schools all over the country. "The fact that my own son is a freshman at Georgetown did not influence this decision," Smith said with a laugh.

Gospel singer Patti will sing the National Anthem, and then a musical tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. will be performed by Wonder, Franklin and Taylor, accompanied by the Eastern High School Choir.

The program will then highlight the history of American music with Kenny G performing to a poem by Emma Lazarus. Cellist Ma, fiddler Mark O'Connor and double bassist Edgar Meyer will play a selection from their "Appalachia Waltz" album. Baryshnikov, in a very rare performance, will dance solo to the music of George Gershwin.

Country will be represented by Rogers and Yearwood, singing a song composed by Randy Goodrum, a high school classmate of the president. The Dave Matthews Band was selected for its popularity with younger fans.

The gala will also feature the casts of two hit musicals on Broadway: "Chicago," a revival of the 1975 Bob Fosse show starring Ann Reinking, Bebe Neuwirth, James Naughton and Joel Grey, and the Tony Award-winning "Bring In 'da Noise, Bring In 'da Funk," starring tap sensation Savion Glover.

"We're very excited and very honored," said George C. Wolfe, "Noise" co-creator and director. "So much of what the show is about is American history and rhythm, and surviving and defying obstacles."

The gala will close with Broadway singer Laurie Beechman and the Assembled Resurrection Choir -- a group of singers from congregations that were burned out during the recent wave of church fires -- singing "You'll Never Walk Alone."

Smith promised there will also be a few surprise appearances, but declined to confirm any other names.

At 7:30 p.m. Jan. 18, most of these performers will appear at USAir Arena in a dress rehearsal. Seats are free with a ticket; the Presidential Inaugural Committee has not announced how those tickets will be distributed, but some will be released to local community groups. All those attending the rehearsal are being asked to bring a donation for local food banks.

Everyone else can watch the Jan. 19 gala on television, taped, that night on CBS from 9 to 11 p.m.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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