With the glitz usually reserved for the Oscars, Washington pays tribute each December to a handful of select performers in an artful evening at the Kennedy Center. On Tuesday, TV watchers...

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WASHINGTON — With the glitz usually reserved for the Oscars, Washington pays tribute each December to a handful of select performers in an artful evening at the Kennedy Center.

On Tuesday, TV watchers will have a chance to see what all the fuss is about, as CBS broadcasts the two-hour “27th Annual Kennedy Center Honors,” at 9 p.m. (KIRO).

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“It combines the ambience of official Washington and its own celebrities — the great public figures starting with the president, senators and people with great responsibility — with the dancers and singers and actors,” said composer and honoree John Williams. “So as glittery as the Oscars are, this seems even more so.”

Six are cited

Williams, who has written the scores for more than 90 movies including the “Harry Potter” films, was saluted for his work, along with actor-producer Warren Beatty, actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, singer-songwriter Elton John and opera star Joan Sutherland.

The show includes brief film biographies for each honoree, as well as onstage performances by peers who pay tribute.


“The 27th Annual Kennedy Center Honors

at 9 p.m. Tuesday on CBS (KIRO).

“With the Kennedy Center Honors, we actually create two experiences, one for those attending the event and another for those who watch it at home on TV, ” said producer George Stevens Jr., who started the event 27 years ago.

“We have more time for the actual show in the opera house, but the people watching at home get to see the close-ups of the honorees responding, reacting to the tributes. Their emotions, those special moments, that’sthe TV additive, the extra that you will see.”

And despite the presence of 12 cameras, Stevens said, “we do not allow it to feel like a taping for TV — this is a performance.”

Viewers will see Itzhak Perlman pay tribute to Williams with a violin solo of the composer’s somber song from the film “Schindler’s List.”

“I was particularly gratified to hear Itzhak,” Williams said. “And then what thrilled me was the Marine Band.” The 70-piece band played a sprightly medley of Williams’ compositions, including the themes from “Star Wars,” “Superman,” “E.T.” and “Jaws.”

Full of praise

“I just love the level of the sound and breadth of what they can do,” Williams said. “They look magnificent performing on the stage.”

For Williams, who is used to delighting an audience rather than being part of one, sitting in the spotlighted balcony with the other honorees “felt a little like an out-of-body experience.”

“You’re up there and there are lights, almost onstage lights. It’s a peculiar perspective, like you’re sitting on stage but being in the audience.”

Beatty, who grew up in Arlington, Va., just across the Potomac from the Kennedy Center, said he enjoyed the “high level of artistry that is involved in the show itself.”

“They do a beautiful job of being current and of respecting tradition simultaneously,” he said. “It’s all tastefully done, with just enough edge to be unpredictable.”

Beatty did not know his longtime friend Jack Nicholson was going to present a tribute.

“He was in top form. He really made me laugh,” Beatty said, referring to a witty monologue Nicholson delivered.

Beatty also was surprised to have Faye Dunaway, his co-star in “Bonnie and Clyde,” and singer Renee Fleming honor him.

“I had no idea what was going to occur at all. They don’t tell you anything, so really, it is all a surprise and you have to just relax,” he said.

It’s Caroline’s turn

Caroline Kennedy, who filled in as host last year for an under-the-weather Walter Cronkite, again served as the event’s host.

“We’ve had the official passing of the torch from Walter to Caroline,” Stevens said, referring to Cronkite’s introduction of Kennedy on stage. “Walter has done this for a long time and felt it was time for someone new,” Stevens said.

Williams said viewers will see “a potpourri, if that’s a good word, of the musical point of view.”

“From Itzhak Perlman, and the chorus, and the Marine Band, all the way to the fantastic singers and rock people. It’s truly Mozart to today, in one concise presentation.”