By David Zurawik
The Baltimore Sun
4:25 PM EST, December 27, 2011
I am off for a few days to deal with some minor medical stuff, and I did not intend to write any reviews, believe me.
But I sat down last night to watch one segment of the preview DVD for "Kennedy Center Honors," and I got up some two hours later feeling like I had been on a wild, joyous, pop culture rollercoaster ride. And I wanted to at least give readers of this a blog a heads-up to catch this brilliant production at 9 tonight on CBS (WJZ-Channel 13).
As usually happens, and as I annually forget, the segments on the honorees that I don't care so much about are the ones that blow me away -- and make me want to run out and buy their DVD or get a Netflix of one of their greatest movies.
So, I came to see how they feted Sonny Rollins and Meryl Streep.
They did OK on both. The tribute for Rollins featured some of the greatest jazz talent of the day.
But the tributes and performances for Broadway and cabaret singer Barbara Cook and cellist Yo-Yo Ma took me to places emotionally and spiritually that TV almost never does.
And, OK, call me Dr. Schmaltz, but once they got into the Neil Diamond tribute performances, I was gone. Wait until you see Smokey Robinson onstage singing "Sweet Caroline." He has still got it, and the cutaway shots to various famous women as they watched him glide across the stage showed what he has.
And what about Lionel Richie who shoots the lights out with a gospel take on "I Am... I Said"? I would never have suspected that kind of performance from him.
But oh lord, the talent onstage for Barbara Cook -- Glenn Close, Patti LuPone, Audra McDonald. The cream of American musical theater struts its stuff on prime-time television during her tribute, and if you want a reason in these dark, depressing American times to feel great about our culture, watch this show.
You want diversity, wait until you see the way Yo-Yo Ma has opened himself to the music of the world -- and CBS brings a big piece of it to American television tonight.
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