Megan Hilty joins Tom Bergeron and Michael Chiklis in wishing America a happy Fourth

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The union has 49 other states, but Massachusetts will make a particularly strong showing this Fourth of July.

The reason? The hosts of two of TV's biggest celebrations of America's birthday hail from there: Haverhill native Tom Bergeron ( "Dancing With the Stars," "America's Funniest Home Videos") will make his "A Capitol Fourth" debut Wednesday, July 4, on PBS (check local listings); and later that night, Lowell-born, Andover-raised Emmy winner Michael Chiklis ("The Shield") will preside over CBS' "Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular" for the second consecutive year.

Bergeron will have impressive talents to introduce on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. They'll include Oscar-winning film composer John Williams, conducting the National Symphony Orchestra (to be led for most of the evening by Jack Everly) in his "Olympic Fanfare." Celebrating the upcoming Games in London, that segment also will feature eight-time medalist Apolo Anton Ohno, who knows Bergeron from having won Season 4 of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars."

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On the bill for "A Capitol Fourth" as well: two-time Tony Award winner Matthew Broderick and Kelli O'Hara, current Broadway co-stars in the musical "Nice Work If You Can Get It"; "Smash" regular Megan Hilty; singers Josh Turner and Javier Colon; pop music's Kool & the Gang; and tenor Russell Watson, also featured on PBS' recent National Memorial Day Concert telecast.

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"My agent is somewhat familiar with me being a tad curmudgeonly in guarding my summer vacation," Bergeron tells Zap2it, "and not really wanting to do much, but this was an easy 'Yes.' I was honored to be asked, and I'm very much looking forward to doing it."

Bergeron confirms the occasion, the guests and the setting all contributed to "the carrot on the stick that I couldn't resist ... and particularly this year, an election year. All eyes are turned to Washington even more than usual, and it's a great time for a birthday party."

For his latest Independence Day hosting stint on the Charles River Esplanade, with recent Queen's Diamond Jubilee conductor Keith Lockhart leading the Boston Pops, Chiklis - who returns to series work this fall opposite Dennis Quaid in the CBS drama "Vegas" - will have his own Oscar winner to present: "Dreamgirls" co-star and third-season "American Idol" finalist Jennifer Hudson. He doesn't deny having her on board has made him pretty popular in his household.

"To have her as the guest is thrilling," Chiklis says, "and my children are completely crazed about it. Both my 18-year-old and my 13-year-old were screaming when I told them; they were jumping up and down. Jennifer crosses all demographics, because I think my wife and I are equally excited about it."

As someone who has attended the July 4 Boston Pops concerts as a spectator many times, Chiklis long hoped for a chance to host the telecast, which CBS' Boston affiliate WBZ-TV (Bergeron's base early in his career) has a big hand in producing. He maintains his first time last year, with Martina McBride brought in as a last-minute replacement when Lionel Richie dropped out, lived up to his hopes. And then some.

"I was told I was the first actual Bostonian to ever host the show," Chiklis reports. "I was kind of stunned to hear that, but I'm even more excited that they've asked me back. You put your best foot forward in these kinds of things and hope that people respond to what you've done, and this is sort of an affirmation that they did like it last year." Chiklis actually was invited back before CBS picked up "Vegas" for next season, and he reasons, "Then it just became all in the family."

Back on PBS, Hilty will be another first-timer on "A Capitol Fourth." She's pleased to be leading off the event by getting back to her "Wicked" and "9 to 5: The Musical" stage roots in rendering an appropriately patriotic medley.

"They're songs we all know and love," says Hilty, whose fame has grown sizably since the start of the year for her role on NBC's "Smash" as calculating Broadway wannabe Ivy. "I'm very aware that [an all-American event] doesn't get much bigger than this, and I'm just very excited about it. I love D.C., and maybe this time when I go back, I can hit up some of the museums. I haven't had the time to do that in a while."

Also not lost on Hilty is the presence of "Jaws," "Star Wars" and "Raiders of the Lost Ark" composer Williams. "There are so many things about this show that are unbelievable, and that's one of them," she enthuses. She also embraces working with theater peer O'Hara, who's "a friend of mine. We have the same manager, too. I've been such a fan of hers for so long, it's going to be fun to do something together."

Now widely known for playing someone who'd do anything to win the role of Marilyn Monroe over rival Karen ( Katharine McPhee) in "Bombshell," the show-within-the-show on "Smash," Hilty is happy to step out as herself on "A Capitol Fourth" ... but also happy to be starting production on Season 2 of the series a few days later.

"As soon as I saw the pilot script, it just seemed too good to be true," she recalls, "just because it was a TV show about my life and my world, essentially. I keep saying it's like 16 dreams coming true at one time. It's everything I could ever want in one job."
Photo/Video credit: PBS
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