Like so much this past year, the inaugural celebration will be like no other: pared down, distanced, much of it virtual. But for actor Christopher Jackson — the original George Washington in Broadway's “Hamilton" — performing in a virtual “ball” is a way of participating in an essential rite of American democracy.
“I’m glad to play a part in it,” says Jackson, who will perform at the quadrennial ball for the Creative Coalition, a fundraiser for arts education and one of the more prominent unofficial events surrounding Joe Biden’s inauguration. “It’s a great honor, and I’m very grateful that we have allowed our system to continue to work in the way it was intended.”
Jackson -- not to mention former co-star and “Hamilton” creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda -- joins a slew of celebrities descending on Washington, virtually or in person, for entertainment surrounding the inauguration of Biden and Kamala Harris. Although the festivities have been radically scaled down due to the raging coronavirus pandemic and security threats, a steady stream of A-list names have signed on, headlined by Lady Gaga singing the national anthem on the West Front of the Capitol, with Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks also performing.
Other top-tier performers will be part of “Celebrating America,” a 90-minute, multi-network evening broadcast hosted by Tom Hanks that officially takes the place of the usual multiple inaugural balls. Miranda will contribute a classical recitation, joining musicians like Bruce Springsteen, Katy Perry, John Legend, Demi Lovato, Foo Fighters, Justin Timberlake and Bon Jovi. Hosts Kerry Washington and Eva Longoria will be joined by basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, chef Jose Andres, labor leader Dolores Huerta and Kim Ng, the first female general manager in MLB history.
The inaugural committee has made sure to blend this high-powered list with ordinary Americans and inspiring stories. Segments will include tributes to a UPS driver, a kindergarten teacher and Sandra Lindsay, the first in New York to receive the COVID-19 vaccine outside a clinical trial. The show will be carried by ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, MSNBC and PBS as well as the committee’s social media channels and streaming partners.
Beyond that event, there’s also a virtual “Parade Across America” on inauguration afternoon, hosted by actor Tony Goldwyn with appearances by Jon Stewart, Earth Wind & Fire and the New Radicals — reuniting after more than two decades — among many others.
There’s was also star power on display Tuesday evening at the virtual “Latino Inaugural 2021,” hosted by Longoria and scheduled to include Broadway and screen star (and EGOT winner) Rita Moreno, Edward James Olmos, and Miranda again, saluting Puerto Rico with his father, Luis Miranda. The show honored members of Latino communities keeping the country running during the pandemic as front-line workers.
Also scheduled Tuesday was “We Are One,” celebrating the Black community and African Diaspora with performances by Tobe Nwigwe, DJ D-Nice, The O’Jays, Rapsody, Step Afrika!, the String Queens and others. And the “AAPI Inaugural Ball: Breaking Barriers” celebrated the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities with planned participants including actors Kal Penn, John Cho, Kumail Nanjiani and Chloe Bennet.