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Kennedy Center Honors: Watch the tribute to Meryl Streep

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Neil Diamond Meryl Streep Yo Yo Ma
John Paul Filo/CBS

The 34th Annual Kennedy Center Honors aired last night on CBS, and we finally got our answer to why Anne Hathaway ended up in a split honoring her Devil Wears Prada costar Meryl Streep: It was choreography for her performance of “She’s Me Pal,” a tribute to Streep’s rendition of “He’s Me Pal” from Ironweed. Watch Streep’s full tribute below. Hathaway’s song starts around 11:50. 

Streep’s tribute is the first to find its way onto YouTube, but expect the others to follow. The audio for Jennifer Nettles’ cover of honoree Neil Diamond’s “Hello Again” has already surfaced. Her voice cuts right to the heart of the lyrics and brings tears to your eyes. You’re gonna want to see Smokey Robinson take the stage for “Sweet Caroline.” There’s a great reaction shot of Sam Waterston sitting up in his seat because he knew it was going to be good, and it was. Smokey gave the song an even smoother groove and had everyone on their feet, including the president and first lady, long before a chorus of Red Sox fans were revealed behind him.

The Yo-Yo Ma tribute was a must-see from start to finish, and not just for the looks of pure joy on Yo-Yo’s face. Stephen Colbert began it by admiring his fearlessness and sense of adventure. “He has done everything you can do with a cello except climb inside and ride it over Niagara Falls. But you know that if he ever did, he would totally redefine our preconceived notions of what it can sound like to plunge to your death in a cello,” he said. No awards show crowd visibly appreciates the performances as much as a Kennedy Center Honors crowd does. Michelle Obama swayed to the classical quintet, John Krasinski (who attended with wife Emily Blunt, who also honored Streep) whistled after the Appalachia-bluegrass piece featuring mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile, and Hathaway teared up when James Taylor closed the tribute with a John Williams-conducted rendition of “Here Comes the Sun” accompanied by the previously mentioned musicians, Yo-Yo’s world-music group the Silk Road Ensemble, and the Joyce Garrett Youth Choir. I welled up, too. The amount of talent, appreciation, and hope was overwhelming.

The tribute to jazz great Sonny Rollins was another all-star jam session that transfixed the audience. Yo-Yo Ma closed his eyes to listen to the sound, and you just wanted a camera on Streep all night because her face couldn’t hide when she was in awe (or, say, singing along to “Cherry, Cherry”). You saw it again when a collection of Tony winners and nominees including Patti LuPone, Sutton Foster, Audra McDonald, Glenn Close, Rebecca Luker, and Kelli O’Hara paid tribute to Barbara Cook. Streep was moved to tears by the McDonald-led group’s closing number, “Make Our Garden Grow.” (Close’s rendition of “Losing My Mind” got Hathaway misty again.)

If you watched the Kennedy Center Honors, what was your favorite part? If you missed them, how badly are you kicking yourself now?

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Kennedy Center Honors: Reasons to tune in