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In Kennedy Center Honors first, ‘Hamilton’ to be awarded prestigious arts prize

Jul 25, 2018

July 25

Washington’s “Summer of ‘Hamilton’ ” will stretch into December, when the Kennedy Center Honors salute the groundbreaking musical and its four creators, marking the first time a work of art has been spotlighted at the annual celebration of the performing arts.

Hamilton” and its creative team — composer-lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda, director Thomas Kail, music director Alex Lacamoire and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler — will receive a special honor Dec. 2 in a ceremony that also salutes the lifetime achievements of composer Philip Glass, singer-actresses Cher and Reba McEntire, and jazz musician Wayne Shorter.

Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter acknowledged that the decision to honor a work of art is a dramatic change in the Honors’ four-decade history, but she said it was warranted because of “Hamilton’s” enormous influence. The hip-hop musical about the Founding Fathers has garnered international attention, brought new fans to Broadway, and received a Pulitzer Prize and Grammy and Tony awards.

“Our conversations were about how powerful this work has been, what it has done to the conversation, the coverage it has received and how powerfully it has impacted every single individual,” Rutter said. “How can we acknowledge it now, while it’s happening?”

The musical’s four creators will be the youngest to receive a Kennedy Center Honor. Miranda is 38; Kail, 40; Lacamoire, 43; and Blankenbuehler, 48. LL Cool J, one of last year’s winners, and Stevie Wonder were 49 when they were given the award.

In a statement, the four artists said they were humbled by the center’s decision to break with tradition to recognize a single work.

“I’m pretty sure Rita Moreno, mi reina, snuck into their offices and stuffed the ballot box,” added Miranda, referring to the 2015 honoree.

The Kennedy Center has honored groups before, including the Eagles in 2016 and Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey of the Who in 2008, as well as such creative partnerships as musical theater legends Fred Ebb and John Kander in 1998 and husband-and-wife actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee in 2004.

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