Type keyword(s) to search


Celebrating America was an "unprecedented logistical puzzle" that had to be solved in less than six weeks

  • "Transporting fireworks to the National Mall is difficult even in ordinary circumstances," says Maura Judkis. "So, consider the logistics of bringing truckloads of explosives for Wednesday’s “Celebrating America” inauguration concert into a twitchy, locked-down Washington, less than two weeks after a deadly insurrection, during a pandemic. There were multiple Secret Service sweeps, police and firetruck escorts, an inspection from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other agency scans. And that’s just the fireworks. There were celebrities to ferry to the Red Zone. Camera equipment to set up at the Lincoln Memorial for those sweeping live shots. Approximately one zillion flags to place on the National Mall, and a slightly smaller quantity of lights to surround the Reflecting Pool. There were three former presidents to assemble at Arlington National Cemetery for a recorded tribute. And there was the need to show the new president celebrating with his family in the White House. The concert was a triumph: a rousing call for American unity through soaring pop songs and tributes to people caring for their community. The production? An unprecedented logistical puzzle that had to be solved in less than six weeks. The team faced a deeper challenge beyond the daunting details: how to reinvent the look and feel of a long-held national tradition — to give meaning to absence, incorporating both grief and optimism; to dazzle the 10.5 million TV viewers who watched the concert as it aired." Executive producer Stephanie Cutter, a former Obama advisor, says of putting the special together: "There was a feeling of determination, but also uncertainty. The same feeling like most Americans were feeling, like you just didn’t know what was going to happen next. But the determination to get this done because we felt the country really needed it helped us overcome that.” Meanwhile, executive producer Ricky Kirshner says putting Celebrating America together was "pretty tight." "We did the Tony Awards at six weeks, but with the Tonys you know what you're getting. You know the nominees, you've seen the shows, they come in self-contained. Six weeks to do something like this is pretty tight," he tells The Hollywood Reporter. He adds that all of the pre-taped performances had to be produced "live." "We might not have produced them live (Wednesday) night, but we produced them live by having a crew there shooting, directing and producing, or producing over Zoom," he says. "It wasn't like, 'Send us your latest music video,' because we made a point to tell everybody that the song had to have a message. You needed to have a reason to be there."

    TOPICS: Celebrating America, Ricky Kirshner, Stephanie Cutter, Biden-Harris Inauguration