WASHINGTON – Broadway came to the nation's capital Sunday night during a gala for the Ford's Theatre attended by President Bush and first lady Laura Bush.
Actor Hal Holbrook, country music singer Trisha Yearwood, former American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken and other stars performed songs and spoken word pieces from the musical "The Civil War" at the National Theatre, which hosted the event because the beneficiary theater is under renovation.
"Laura and I have been coming here now for eight years to the Ford Theatre gala and this is by far the best," Bush said after the performances. "It's such an uplifting performance and a reminder of what a great president Abraham Lincoln was."
The musical, which premiered in Houston in 1998 before opening on Broadway, follows the course of the war from multiple perspectives.
The spoken word selections invoked Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth and Lincoln among others. Holbrook read several selections.
Yearwood performed two numbers: "If I Should Lose My Way" and "The Honor of Your Name." Aiken sang "Sarah."
Other performers included actor Avery Brooks, musician Larry Gatlin and author Maya Angelou.
Angelou was one of the evenings two recipients of Lincoln Medals.
Actress Ruby Dee also was honored with a medal. Her daughter accepted it on her behalf.
"The Lincoln Medal brings Abraham Lincoln's legacy to life by recognizing his wisdom and vision in the work of today's leaders," the first lady said when introducing the recipients. "It honors those who through their accomplishments or personal attributes illuminate the character of our most beloved president."