Audra McDonald & More Join Line-Up of NBC's CHRISTMAS IN ROCKEFELLER CENTER
NBC will celebrate the lighting of the world's most famous Christmas tree with a live broadcast from Rockefeller Center® in New York City on Wednesday, Dec. 4 (8-9 p.m. ET). The star-studded holiday special is hosted by "Today" anchors Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker and Natalie Morales, and will feature performances from Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson, Kenny "Babyface" Edmonds, Goo Goo Dolls, Ariana Grande, Jewel, Leona Lewis, Audra McDonald and The Rockettes. McDonald also stars in "The Sound of Music Live!" on NBC, airing Dec. 5 (8-11p.m. ET). Ashanti and Alaina will perform only in the 7-8 p.m. ET hour airing on select NBC stations.
The 81st annual holiday extravaganza will feature a 76-foot Norway Spruce that is 47 feet in diameter and weighs approximately 12 tons. The tree is estimated to be about 75 years old. More than 45,000 energy-efficient multi-colored LED lights will be strung to decorate the tree, topped with a 9 ½ foot wide LED-lit Swarovski crystal star.
The tradition of the Rockefeller Christmas tree dates back to the Great Depression. First erected in 1933, the inaugural tree was decked with 700 lights and placed in front of the then eight-month-old RCA Building (the current GE Building). The Christmas tree gathering was enhanced in 1936 with the opening of the Rockefeller Plaza outdoor ice-skating pond. NBC-TV televised the tree lighting for the first time in 1951 on "The Kate Smith Show" and as part of the nationwide "Howdy Doody" television show from 1953-55.
Prior to this year's Primetime telecast, an additional live hour of the special (7-8 p.m. ET) will be broadcast by The Following NBC stations: WNBC/New York; WCAU/Philadelphia; WAVY/Norfolk, Va.; KSNV/Las Vegas; WBBH/Fort Myers, Fla.; KHNL/Honolulu, Hawaii; WCSH/Portland, Maine; WNWO/Toledo, Ohio; WALB/Albany, Ga.; WTWC/Tallahassee, Fla.; WVIR/Charlottesville, Va.; WETM/Elmira, N.Y.; WLBZ/Bangor, Maine; WBOY/Clarksburg, W.Va.; WGBC/Meridian, Miss.; KHBC/Hilo, Hawaii; and KOGG/Wailuku, Hawaii.
"Christmas in Rockefeller Center" is produced by Brad Lachman Productions with Lachman serving as executive producer. Bill Bracken will produce.
ABOUT THE HOSTS:
Matt Lauer - Matt Lauer has been co-anchor of NBC News' "Today" since January 6, 1997. He joined "Today" in January 1994 as the show's news anchor. From September 1992 to September 1996, Lauer was at WNBC in New York City where he served as a co-anchor of the early morning newscast "Today in New York" and as a co-anchor of the early evening newscast "News Channel 4/Live at Five." He began substituting on "Today" as a news anchor in early 1993 before becoming the permanent news anchor in 1994. Prior to joining WNBC, Lauer hosted a daily, live, three-hour interview program, "9 Broadcast Plaza," in New York from 1989 to 1991. Before that, his experience included hosting a number of weekly information and talk programs in Boston, Philadelphia, Providence and Richmond. Lauer began his career in 1979 as a producer of the noon news on WOWK in Huntington, West Virginia. In 1980, he was a reporter on the station's 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts. Lauer is a graduate of Ohio University. He lives in New York with his wife, Annette Roque Lauer, their sons, Jack and Thijs, and daughter, Romy. Follow Lauer on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mlauer
Savannah Guthrie - Savannah Guthrie is the co-anchor of NBC News' "Today" and also serves as NBC News Chief Legal Correspondent. Prior to joining "Today," Guthrie served as NBC News White House Correspondent from December 2008 to June 2011 where she contributed to all NBC News properties, including "NBC Nightly News with BrIan Williams," "Today" and MSNBC. Guthrie also served as co-host of MSNBC's "The Daily Rundown" from January 2010 to June 2011. In 2002, Guthrie received her Juris Doctor from Georgetown University Law Center, where she graduated magna cum laude. She was a member of Order of the Coif and received the International Academy of Trial Lawyers' Student Advocacy Award for her work with victims of domestic violence. She graduated cum laude from the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism in 1993. She received the top score on the Arizona Bar Exam in 2002. Follow Guthrie on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/SavannahGuthrie
Al Roker - Al Roker has been the weather and feature anchor on NBC News' "Today" since January 1996. He's also co-host of "Wake Up with Al" on the Weather Channel. Until January of 2000, Roker also served as the weekday weather forecaster for News Channel 4's early evening newscast Live at 5 on WNBC-TV, NBC's flagship owned and operated station in New York City. New York Magazine has twice named Roker Best Weatherman. He is a recipient of the American Meteorological Society's prestigious Seal of Approval and has been a pioneer in the use of computer graphics for weathercasting. In 1994, Roker founded Al Roker Entertainment, Inc. (ARE), a thriving multimedia company involved in the development and production of network, cable, home video, and public television projects. Roker is a bestselling author, with his most recent book, "Never Goin' Back: Winning the Weight-Loss Battle For Good," available now. Raised in Queens, N.Y., Roker received his B.A. in communications from the State University at Oswego in 1976, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the school in 1998. He resides in Manhattan with his wife, ABC News 20/20 Correspondent Deborah Roberts, and has two daughters and one son. Follow Roker on Twitter atwww.twitter.com/alroker
Natalie Morales - Natalie Morales is the news anchor of NBC News' "Today" and the co-host of the third hour. Prior to her role as news anchor, Morales served as "Today" national correspondent from February 2006 to June 2011. Morales also served as a national correspondent for all NBC News platforms including "NBC Nightly News with BrIan Williams," Dateline NBC," and MSNBC, and still continues to report across the NBC News Group. Morales, who speaks Spanish and Portuguese, was born in Taiwan and spent much of the first 18 years of her life living overseas in Panama, Brazil and Spain as an Air Force "brat." She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Rutgers University, New Jersey, with dual majors in journalism and Latin American studies. Morales was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and graduated Suma Cum Laude. She currently resides in New Jersey with her husband and two sons. Follow Morales on Twitter at www.twitter.com/nmoralesNBC
ABOUT THE PERFORMERS:
Lauren Alaina - Georgia native Lauren Alaina captured America's hearts when she appeared on Season 10 of American Idol. Her first album, "Wildflower," debuted at #1 on the iTunes Country chart and #2 on Billboard's Top Country Album chart, and was the best-selling digital album by a debut country female. She was also the youngest female to have her album debut that high since LeAnn Rimes 15 years prior. Alaina has been nominated for several Teen Choice and CMT Music Awards, and recently took home the Artist Of The Year: New Artist trophy at the 2012 American Country Awards. She has toured with superstars Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Sugarland. She is an Ambassador for the Special Olympics and will release her version of "Grown Up Christmas List" as a part of their A Very Special Christmas album series this holiday season. Alaina is currently working on her highly anticipated forthcoming sophomore album.
Ashanti - Ashanti burst onto the music scene with her smash hit debut album, the self-titled "Ashanti," which sold over 500,000 units in its first week and landed her the #1 spot on both the Billboard Top 200 and R&B album charts, and a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most albums sold by a debut female artist. That year, her album "Ashanti" won the Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B Album, eight Billboard Awards, two American Music Awards and she was presented with the Soul Train Aretha Franklin Entertainer of the Year Award. Over the last decade, Ashanti has appeared in a number of films and television shows, including the 2013 season of "Army Wives" on Lifetime, recorded four more albums, penned a book of poetry, starred on Broadway and launched a self-titled fragrance. Her new studio single "I Got It" featuring Rick Ross and produced by L. T. Hutton, was released on November 26 and has already reach number 20 on iTunes' R&B/Soul charts. "I Got It" will appear on Ashanti's fifth studio CD "Braveheart" arriving in stores in early 2014. Additionally, Ashanti is set to star in the Lifetime Network's "Christmas in the City" movie premieringDecember 7. She has also recorded five new Christmas songs that have been released as an EP available on iTunes.
Mary J. Blige - Iconic Grammy Award-winning singer, songwriter, actress and philanthropist, Mary J. Blige is a figure of inspiration, transformation and empowerment making Blige one of the defining voices of the contemporary music era. With a track record of eight multi-platinum albums, nine Grammy Awards (plus a staggering 29 nominations), a 2012 Golden Globe nomination, and four American Music Awards, Blige is a global superstar. And in the ensuing years, the singer/songwriter has attracted an intensely loyal fan base-responsible for propelling worldwide sales of more than 50 million albums. In October 2013, Blige for Matriarch Records/Verve Records/Interscope Records released her 11th studio album titled "A Mary Christmas," making it her first-ever holiday album and collaboration with legendary producer and Chairman of The Verve Music Group, David Foster. Blige's holiday album features her soulful interpretation of classic holiday tunes including "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas" and "The Christmas Song." Blige is joined by a number of A-list guests, starting with Barbra Streisand, who duets with Blige on "When You Wish Upon A Star," along with Jessie J on "Do You Hear What I Hear." The Clark Sisters join Blige on "The First Noel," and "Noche de Paz" is a Spanish collaboration with Mark Anthony. Next, Blige will star as Platinum Fro, a mysterious guardian angel in the Kasi Lemmon-directed "Black Nativity," a contemporary adaptation of Langston Hughes' 1961 play. The holiday musical film drama hit theatres on November 27, 2013 with an all-star cast including Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett, Jennifer Hudson, and Tyrese Gibson.
Toni Braxton - The distinctive, sultry vocals of six-time Grammy Award-winning recording artist Toni Braxton - singer, songwriter, record producer, and philanthropist - have been celebrated internationally ever since she was first introduced to the world by Babyface and L.A. Reid in 1992. Her self-titled debut album released the next year was a 10 million-selling phenomenon that generated Braxton's first Grammys in 1994, for Best New Artist and Best Female R&B Vocal ("Another Sad Love Song"). The album's longevity led Braxton to win her second Best Female R&B Vocal Grammy The Following year (for "Breathe Again"). Her second album, "Secrets," arrived in 1996, and history repeated itself with 15 million worldwide sales. At the Grammy Awards in 1997, Braxton became only the second woman in history (beside Dionne Warwick) to win Best Female Pop Vocal ("Un-break My Heart") and Best Female R&B Vocal ("You're Makin' Me High") in the same year. She returned to the Grammy podium in 2001 to claim another Best Female R&B Vocal award ("He Wasn't Man Enough," from the double-platinum album "The Heat"). Into the millennium, Braxton blossomed into an acting career with Broadway musical roles in "Beauty and the Beast" and "Aida," and a dramatic turn in the Lifetime movie "Twist of Faith." She and her sisters currently enjoy huge success in "Braxton Family Values," one of WE tv's flagship reality series, which returned for a fourth season in November 2013. Raising her two sons Denim and Diezel, Braxton balances her career demands with the high priorities of family, heath, public service, and charity work, particularly on behalf of the two diseases that have impacted her family directly - she is living with Lupus and her youngest child is living with Autism. Early detection and Intervention has helped both Braxtons to be role models on how to live normal lives with these conditions. Braxton is also a proud spokesperson for Autism Speaks. She and Babyface will release "Love, Marriage & Divorce," their first album of duets together, in February 2014.