- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 16, 2001

Las Vegas showman Wayne Newton will hit the stage with Radio City Music Hall's famed Rockettes. Teen pop sensation Jessica Simpson, a Texas native, will perform with popular composer Andrew Lloyd Webber.

These are among the small host of entertainers, sports greats and celebrities who will be part of the opening celebration of the inauguration of George W. Bush as the nation's 43rd president.

The Presidential Inaugural Committee (PIC) yesterday released more details of the four days of events beginning at 3:30 p.m. Thursday on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with a 2 and 1/2-hour show emceed by CNN talk-show host Larry King.

Both Mr. Bush and Vice President-elect Richard B. Cheney are scheduled to speak before the fireworks-filled finale.

Organizers said they expect a crowd of about 75,000 for the variety-style show, called "Celebrating America's Spirit Together" and staged by award-winning producer and director George Schlatter. Six huge Jumbotron screens erected along the Mall's Reflecting Pool will help attendees get a better view, PIC officials said.

"This celebration reflects President-elect Bush's commitment to bringing America together," PIC executive director Jeanne Johnson Phillips said. "Through music, songs and spoken words, Americans will celebrate in the rich culture and history of America."

Secretary of State-designee Colin Powell is scheduled to make remarks during the program, which also will feature members of the Army's Golden Knights parachuting onto the Mall and a flyover by four aircraft representing each branch of the armed services.

Also slated to speak are actor Sylvester Stallone, boxing great Muhammad Ali and Olympic swimmer Dara Torres.

Gospel singer Sandi Patti has been confirmed to perform "The Star-Spangled Banner," 17-year-old Christian singer Tiffany Ameen of New Orleans will offer "Amazing Grace" and vocalist Kim Weston will sing "Lift Every Voice." Opera singer Denise Graves, who grew up in the Washington area, also will perform.

As reported days ago, Latin pop sensation Ricky Martin is one of the biggest names on the bill. But in a program change, PIC officials confirmed that Irish rhythm-and-blues veteran Van Morrison will not appear because the singer is scheduled to be in London at the time. "He can't make it," PIC spokeswoman Natalie Rule said.

Also among those who are scheduled: pop singer Jon Secada, country singers Lorrie Morgan and Sammy Kershaw, teen opera star Charlotte Church, the 5th Dimension's Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., classical pianist Christopher Johnson, country duo Brooks & Dunn and the All Girls National Jazz Choir.

The Navy Band and Army Herald Trumpeters will offer ceremonial musical support.

PIC officials also released specifics on the sold-out Concert Celebrating America's Youth, to be held at 4 p.m. Friday at MCI Center. An audience of about 13,000 is expected, officials said, and 2,000 tickets were donated to local youth groups around the country.

The two-hour concert will be staged like an awards show, with a large screen on one side of the stage as well as multiple hosts, speakers and video presentations, PIC officials said.

Opening remarks will be made by the president-elect's nephew, George P. Bush, son of Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Teen-age Christian singer Jaci Velasquez will perform "America, the Beautiful."

Scheduled performers include Miss Simpson, the hit soul trio Destiny's Child, pop quartet 98 Degrees, rock band 9 Days, and country singer Lee Ann Womack, a native of Jacksonville, Texas.

Also scheduled to speak are Mr. Bush, Mr. Cheney, Mr. Powell and two other Cabinet nominees Rod Paige (secretary of education) and Mel Martinez (secretary of housing and urban development).

PIC also released details on two inaugural church services. A family service for the Bushes, Cheneys and close friends will be held at 9:30 a.m. Saturday at St. John's Church. It is closed to the public.

An interfaith prayer service, open to the public, will take place at 8:30 a.m. Sunday at Washington National Cathedral. Among those expected to attend are the new president and vice president, Cabinet nominees, members of Congress, governors and inaugural staff.

A limited number of general admission passes to the interfaith service will be available on a first-come, first-served basis at 8 a.m. at the cathedral's gatehouse on Wisconsin Avenue.

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