Music legends, Kermit the Frog, and a message from space: host Vanessa Williams on 2021’s ‘A Capitol Fourth’

Courtesy PBS

With fireworks and large gatherings cancelled over COVID-19 concerns, along with the racial strife in the streets, PBS’s annual A Capitol Fourth celebration was a more somber affair last year. For Sunday night’s telecast, however, host Vanessa Williams tells ABC Audio things feel different.

“It definitely feels like the needle has moved forward,” Williams explains. “There has been so many people are healthy and businesses are open again, so there will be a refreshing take this year to the Capitol Fourth.”

The actress and recording artist’s hosting and singing segments will be live, as will the fireworks, though “amazing” musical acts have been pre-recorded. 

Kermit the Frog is actually going to be doing a couple of segments with me. So it’s not John Stamos, but it’s Kermit, so we’ll take that,” she says with a laugh about her frequent co-host. 

Williams continues, “Broadway phenoms like Cynthia Erivo and Christopher Jackson from Hamilton and Alan Jackson from country. Jennifer Nettles from the Country world, Train from the Rock and Roll world. My dear friend Renée Fleming from the opera world. Pentatonix…I mean, so many,” she enthuses.

There will also be a message from astronauts on the International Space Station.

As she did last year, Williams’ performances will touch on deeper issues. “I’m doing a tribute to Juneteenth…to highlight our new federal holiday, and I’m singing ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’, which has been kind of our Negro national anthem back in the day.”

She adds, “I will be singing ‘God Bless America’ while the fireworks are in the air.”

“It’s a wonderful tradition,” Williams says of the celebration that starts at 8 p.m. Sunday. “So I’m happy to listen to everyone and be a fan as well as a host.”  


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