Cher, country singer Reba McEntire and Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda were among those honored Sunday evening at the annual Kennedy Center Honors. Hosted by Gloria Estefan, the program celebrated a lifetime achievements in the arts for its honorees, who also included jazz musician Wayne Shorter, composer Philip Glass and music director Alex Lacamoire.
The celebration commenced with a memorial to President George H.W. Bush, who died last week at 94 and attended numerous Kennedy Center Honors during his presidency. “I think it’s appropriate to recognize the passing of a wonderful man who dedicated his life to service and who graciously attended this event many times during his administration, laughing, applauding, singing along and even shedding a tear from right up there in the presidential box,” Estefan told the audience, according to the Associated Press. At the end of her tribute, the singer added, “He was a gentle, kind man who my family and I will never forget.”
McEntire was the first honoree of the night and was introduced to the stage by Kelly Clarkson, who performed the singer’s hit song “Fancy.” “Sometimes when we meet our heroes, it doesn’t always pan out,” Clarkson said onstage to McEntire. “But my friendship with you became one of the highlights of my life.”
Paul Simon was on hand to give Glass his award, telling the audience, “He can rightfully be described as one of our greatest modern composers.” Whoopi Goldberg, Cyndi Lauper and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again star Amanda Seyfried paid tribute to Cher, with Lauper performing the singer’s memorable hit “If I Could Turn Back Time.”
“She is the true original,” Goldberg said of Cher during her tribute, according to AP. “She not only marched to the beat of her own drum — honey, she is a one-woman band!”
“When we first met on set I was so in awe, that I overcompensated,” Seyfried said, according to USA Today. “I quickly introduced myself and I literally ran away. Then the next day, it was our first scene together, and she said something along the lines of ‘I didn’t think you wanted to hang out with me.’ And I was like, ‘Are you nuts? You’re Cher. Everybody wants to hang out with you, cause you’re… Cher.'”
Miranda, Lacamoire, director Thomas Kail and choreographer Andy Blankenbuehler were presented with special awards that recognized contemporary works of art, as opposed to career legacies, and honored them as “trailblazing creators of a transformative work that defies category.” Hamilton took the spotlight as Miranda and Lacamoire joined Broadway star Christopher Jackson to perform “One Last Time.”
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump declined to attend the awards for the second year in a row. Although both had returned to Washington, D.C. from the Group of 20 summit in Argentina that morning, neither was present, having announced several weeks ago they would not be attending. Trump is the first president in U.S. history to miss the Kennedy Center Honors twice. Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin were among the evening’s attendees.