Washington, D.C. - The best of Broadway comes to the White House in an
evening of true Americana for "In Performance at the White House: The
Congressional Picnic." The program airs Sunday, May 28, 2006, at 9:30 p.m. ET
on PBS stations nationwide. (Check local listings.) President and Mrs. Bush
welcome Broadway legend Shirley Jones, soprano Harolyn Blackwell, teenage
dance sensation Cartier Williams and actor, singer and recording artist Tom
Wopat -- the host for the program -- for the latest in a nearly three decades-long
series of PBS specials from the White House. The one-hour program also
encompasses a behind-the-scenes look at the preparations for the Congressional
President and Mrs. Bush host the members of Congress and their families
for what has become a highlight of the Washington social scene, the
Congressional Picnic. The festivities on the South Lawn feature an evening of
entertainment from top stars.
Tom Wopat is a Tony Award-nominated performer, earning this honor for
his role as Frank Butler in "Annie Get Your Gun" in 1999. A classically trained
singer, he has also recorded albums of Broadway favorites, including a tribute
album to the legendary composer Harold Arlen. Wopat, formerly the star of the
television series "The Dukes of Hazzard," is currently on Broadway in the
production of David Mamet's "Glengarry Glen Ross."
Shirley Jones has entertained fans with her work on Broadway, in movies
and on television for nearly half a century. She so impressed composer Richard
Rodgers in her first Broadway audition that he immediately cast her in the role of
Laurey in the film version of "Oklahoma!" Her singing and acting talent are
showcased in the film versions of "Carousel," "The Music Man" and numerous other Hollywood productions. Jones won an Academy Award for her role in the drama "Elmer Gantry." An entire new generation of fans grew up watching Jones in her television role as the matriarch of a pop band in the series, "The Partridge Family."
Best known today as an operatic soprano, Harolyn Blackwell began her career on Broadway, in Leonard Bernstein's "West Side Story." The transition from the Broadway stage to the opera house came naturally to Blackwell, and she has performed in operatic productions and in recitals all over the world. In an acclaimed career, she is particularly admired for her performances in "Porgy and Bess" and "Candide." A native of Washington, D.C., Blackwell has also won critical plaudits as a recording artist.
Cartier Williams, a student in the Washington, D.C., public schools, is a
rising star in dance, having teamed with dance impresario Savion Glover in the
touring show of the Broadway hit, "Bring In 'Da Noise, Bring In 'Da Funk."
Williams began dancing when he was just four. Now a teenager, he joined
Glover's troupe Ti Dji for a string of heralded performances. He also appears
with Glover in the Spike Lee film, "Bamboozled."
"In Performance at the White House" began with an East Room recital by
the legendary pianist Vladimir Horowitz in 1978, and since then has embraced
virtually every genre of American music: pop, country, gospel, jazz and the blues
among them. The series was created to showcase the rich fabric of American
culture in the setting of the nation's most famous home. During the
administration of President George W. Bush, programs have showcased the
United States Marine Band and the singing talents of Natalie Cole.
"In Performance at the White House: The Congressional Picnic" is a production of WETA Washington, D.C., which created the series. The executive producers are Dalton Delan and David S. Thompson. The producer is Jackson Frost. Funding for this broadcast is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS and public television viewers.
WETA Washington, D.C., is the third-largest producing station for public
television. WETA's other productions and co-productions include "The
NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," "Washington Week with Gwen Ifill and National
Journal," "The Kennedy Center Presents," and documentaries by filmmaker Ken
Burns, including "The Civil War" and "Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and
Fall of Jack Johnson." Sharon Percy Rockefeller is president and CEO. More
information on WETA and its programs and services is available at weta.org.