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Barry Manilow returns to ‘A Capitol Fourth’

By Roger Catlin
Washington Post

A Capitol Fourth

8 p.m. Thursday, PBS-TV

After 50 singles on the adult contemporary chart, Barry Manilow is still performing before large audiences. He’ll perform in “A Capitol Fourth” on the West Lawn of the Capitol on Thursday.

He’s part of a concert that will include Candice Glover, Scotty McCreery, Darren Criss, Megan Hilty, Jackie Evancho, the cast of “Motown: The Musical,” John Williams and the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Jack Everly before the fireworks kick in. The 33rd annual event will be broadcast live on PBS.

Manilow chatted about the performance and its key pyrotechnic turn and the prospects for him becoming a judge on “American Idol.”

Q. I can’t believe you’re 70.

You and me both. It’s so odd. That number just doesn’t make any sense. When my grandfather was 70, the best he could do was to bring up phlegm.

I still feel the same way I always have. I’m creative and energetic and never stop. It just doesn’t make any sense, but frankly I’m just grateful that I’m healthy and working and still got my hair. What more can I ask?

Q. Has your touring slowed at all?

When I began, I used to tour for months at a time. I don’t do that anymore. I do weekends. I do one-nighters.

Q. You’re back for “A Capitol Fourth” for the first time since 2009.

Back by popular demand I guess. I thought it’d be 10 years before they asked me back, and it’s only been four years. I certainly am looking forward to it. It was a great experience last time. Especially to be able to play my song “Let Freedom Ring” with that orchestra and those fireworks, wow, it was really fantastic.

Q. Will “Let Freedom Ring” be the climactic song this time?

It will be. I’m pretty sure I’ll close the evening with that song. I’ll have a huge choir, and on the last key change, they hit the fireworks and it’s really something.

Q. A couple of the other performers on the bill are from “American Idol” – Candice Glover, the recent winner; Scotty McCreery. You’ve had some experience there as a mentor. Is that something you’d like to return to?

I love doing it. And I hope I helped them. I did it three times. I worked with the kids before they got onstage. I worked with them for a week before they got onstage on arrangements and gave them some suggestions, and I hope it helped. I loved doing it back then.

As far as being a judge, it’s not really my thing. I can’t be a wisea-- or even criticize, that’s not what I do. But I sure did like helping them.

Q. Is retirement conceivable for you?

No. What a terrible word. Terrible word! Not for me.

There’s always a couple of ideas in the pipeline. I’ve got a couple of album ideas that I’m going to have to start to get to, and, of course, I have my musical “Harmony” to work on until it opens in September in Atlanta.

I’ve always got a million ideas. Just a million ideas. And like I say, I’m happy there are people out there interested in what I’ve got to do.

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