Kennedy Centre honours musical Hamilton, Philip Glass, Cher

Philip Glass
Philip Glass

WASHINGTON •The groundbreaking musical Hamilton will be celebrated this year at the Kennedy Centre Honours, one of America's top celebrations of the arts - the first time a work rather than an individual or group is recognised.

The Kennedy Centre, the performing arts complex in Washington that serves as a living monument to slain president John F. Kennedy, announced on Wednesday that it will also honour leading composer Philip Glass, pop superstar Cher, country crooner Reba McEntire and jazz saxophonist Wayne Shorter on Dec 2.

The Kennedy Centre Honours traditionally take place in the presence of the United States president, but Mr Donald Trump, despised by many cultural and entertainment figures, skipped the gala evening last year.

The edition this year looks unlikely to be any different as both Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda and Cher are vociferous critics of Mr Trump.

Hamilton, a production of which recently opened at the Kennedy Centre, is still one of the hottest tickets on Broadway, years after its 2015 premiere.

The musical tells the story of Alexander Hamilton and fellow founding fathers of the US, but through the lens of modern, multi-ethnic America, with rap and hip-hop numbers mixed in with more traditional show tunes.

The Kennedy Centre said in a statement that it was recognising the "trailblazing creators of a transformative work that defies category".

"This year's slate of honourees represents the pinnacle of our nation's originality and the rich mosaic of diverse perspectives and art forms that has come to define who we are as a people," Kennedy Centre president Deborah Rutter said.

The 81-year-old Glass, generally considered the foremost living American composer, earlier this year made his performance debut at the Kennedy Centre, testing himself by appearing as a pianist.

Cher, 72, is the former half of folk duo Sonny & Cher, who has transformed herself into a concert-packing pop performer and Oscar-winning actress.

She holds the record for the longest gap between No. 1 songs on the US chart at nearly 25 years and is currently starring in a sequel to the Abba film musical Mamma Mia!.

Shorter, 84, performed with jazz trumpeter Miles Davis and went on to become a leading bandleader and improviser on both soprano and tenor saxophone, including with his group Weather Report.

McEntire became a top country star in the 1980s, originally with a sound that blended pop and gradually with a more traditional sound.

McEntire, who has also starred on Broadway and in film, has been circumspect about politics, saying she avoids the topic so as not to alienate fans who paid to see her.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 27, 2018, with the headline 'Kennedy Centre honours musical Hamilton, Philip Glass, Cher'. Print Edition | Subscribe