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Barry Manilow headlines PBS’ annual ‘Capitol Fourth’ bash

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“A Capitol Fourth”

7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday on WTTW-Channel 11

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Updated: July 3, 2013 8:18PM

It’s as American as apple pie.

The 33rd annual PBS “A Capitol Fourth,” live from Washington, D.C., serves as the nation’s official Fourth of July concert/fireworks spectacular.

This year’s lineup features Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond, “Smash” actress Megan Hilty, singer Jackie Evancho, country vocalist Scotty McCreery, “Glee” star Darren Criss and the cast of the new Broadway show “Motown the Musical.” Oscar-winning composer John Williams conducts the National Symphony Orchestra, featuring a solo by Chicago Symphony Orchestra principal trumpet Chris Martin.

“I did it four years ago and I was so thrilled when they called me back and asked me to do it again,” Manilow said in a recent interview when asked about returning for the live televised event. “For me it was one of the biggest thrills, not only because I was standing, singing, looking at the Capitol [building] and being surrounded by history ... and then being in the company of the National Orchestra [who] are amazing. Most of all, for me, it was ending the show with ‘Let Freedom Ring.’ Bruce [Sussman] and I wrote it for a moment like that.”

Manilow says he will open the show with a new sequence of his greatest hits and then return at the end for a reprise of “Let Freedom Ring” accompanying the fireworks spectacle.

Diamond will perform “Freedom Song (They’ll Never Take Us Down),” which he composed in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. All proceeds from the sale of the song are earmarked to benefit One Fund Boston and the Wounded Warrior Project.

Like Manilow, Hilty is making a return trip to the television special.

“It’s something I did last year and I had so much fun that it was just an honor to be asked to do it again,” Hilty said. The Broadway actress recently released “It Happens All the Time,” her first solo CD. She will star in “Sean Saves the World” this fall on NBC.

“To celebrate the nation’s birthday in the capital is amazing,” she said. As for live TV jitters, Hilty takes it all in stride.

“You don’t really think about the camera because you’re standing across from the Capitol building and there are thousands of people out on that lawn that you’re singing to. It’s an incredible moment”

As for the two legendary superstars on the show, Hilty has a soft spot in her heart for one of them.

“I love them both,” Hilty said of Neil Diamond and Barry Manilow. “But I have to seriously bring a little autograph book because I am a major Fanilow!”

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