Some famous faces take center stage in star-studded Fourth of July specials
What do an actor who plays a popular teacher, another actor famous for portraying a tough cop, and a former boy-band member have in common?
They’ll all celebrate America’s 235th birthday in big cities and very visible ways Monday.
“Glee” co-star Matthew Morrison — alias that Fox show’s Will “Mr. Schue” Schuester — will perform in Washington, D.C., on the PBS special “A Capitol Fourth” (check local listings); Emmy winner Michael Chiklis (“The Shield”) will return to his native Massachusetts to host CBS’ “Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular”; and 98 Degrees music veteran Nick Lachey, now the host of NBC’s “The Sing-Off,” will watch the skies above New York as he presides over that network’s “Macy’s 4th of July Fireworks Spectacular.”
“I’ve gotten the chance to perform in D.C. so much over the past two years, and every opportunity I can, I will,” Morrison says. “I love the city, and I love getting to meet President Obama, which I’ve done six times already. This is going to be really great, because it’s outside on the Mall. How many amazing performances have happened there over the history of our country?”
Emmy-winning actor Jimmy Smits returns as host of “A Capitol Fourth” on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. In addition to Morrison, the scheduled performers include Steve Martin (with his musical Steep Canyon Rangers), Josh Groban, Little Richard and 2007 “American Idol” winner Jordin Sparks. As usual, the National Symphony Orchestra will close the show with Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture as fireworks burst above.
Morrison is about to start touring as a “special guest” of the Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block in many of their tandem summer concerts. For his appearance on “A Capitol Fourth,” he indicates he’ll probably offer patriotic tunes as well as songs from his self-titled CD, released in May.
“I do want to incorporate some element of dance,” Morrison notes. “It’s something I’ve studied my whole life, so it’s definitely going to be a big part of this. I’m so proud to be an American, and I’m so honored they picked me to help honor the country.”
For Chiklis, most recently of ABC’s “No Ordinary Family,” it’s clear that getting to play host to — and, also being a musician, to perform with — the Keith Lockhartconducted Boston Pops back on his home turf is a very big deal. “It’s truly one of the most thrilling things that’s ever happened in my career or my life,” the actor says. “That’s how excited I am about it.
“The Fourth of July at the Esplanade is one of my favorite events. Probably half the Fourths that I’ve experienced in my lifetime have been spent there; it’s a family tradition every year. A couple of years ago, we were sitting there watching the show, and Craig Ferguson was hosting. I think the world of him, and he had just become an American citizen, so it worked perfectly for the night. My wife went, ‘You should do this!’ And I said, ‘Michelle, they have to ask me.’ ”
When the invitation finally came, it likely was an outgrowth of Chiklis’ recent work with CBS on a sitcom pilot that ultimately wasn’t picked up.
“You know, this is an out-of-sight, out-of mind business,” he reasons, “and when you’re in sight, you’re in mind. My understanding is that right after I signed on for the pilot, they went into a room to decide who was going to host (the July Fourth special) this year, and I think I was very fresh in their minds, and it just came up. So yes, I think that had everything to do with it. It was just a lucky happenstance.”
Lachey is no stranger to the Macy’s special, so he largely knows what’s entailed for him in being the host of it. He reports, “I performed on the show one year, and my fiancee (actress and entertainment journalist Vanessa Minnillo) used to have an apartment at 34th and First ... so we’d watch the fireworks every year. The Fourth of July in New York is kind of a tradition for us, and it’s very exciting to be the host.”
This year, the Macy’s event also salutes the 125th anniversary of another New York staple, the Statue of Liberty. Beyonce and Brad Paisley are among the scheduled performers, and the show’s 25-minute display of lights will be synchronized to a recorded soundtrack slated to feature such artists as Katy Perry, Taio Cruz and Jennifer Hudson.
Thanks to the NBC competition “The Sing-Off,” which starts its third season this fall, Lachey has gotten very comfortable with the job of guiding viewers though a show.
“Glee” star Matthew Morrison performs on “A Capitol Fourth” on Monday on Channel 9.