Leslie Odom Jr. to headline annual Hylton Center gala at George Mason University

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Leslie Odom Jr. at Hylton Center (Part 1)

A stage and screen superstar is coming to George Mason University in Manassas, Virginia.

Leslie Odom Jr. headlines the 12th Anniversary Gala at the Hylton Performing Arts Center.

“The Hylton Center opened in 2010, so this is our 12th anniversary,” Executive Director Rick Davis told WTOP. “We took a little break from the gala during the pandemic [and] shifted to a virtual gala, but we still feel comfortable calling this our 12th Anniversary Gala because we’ve been in business now for 12 years — 12 very exciting years.”

The two-night event kicks off Friday with a festive dinner (black-tie optional).

“We have this beautiful, catered dinner, very elegant, but we have it on the stage of Merchant Hall, which is our signature auditorium, a 1,200-seat opera house,” Davis said. “It’s a gorgeous place. You’re sitting on stage and looking out at this auditorium. Frankly, people get a viewpoint that they really don’t ever get from the performer’s point of view.”

This year’s gala will honor local leaders Denise McPhail and Lovey Hammel.

“Every year we honor one or more distinguished members of our community,” Davis said. “We are honoring Denise McPhail, co-founder of CAPAC, the Creative And Performing Arts [Center], an amazing Prince William County group … and we’re honoring Lovey Hammel, one of our longtime patrons and former board member of George Mason University.”

There will also be a live auction and a “Raise Your Paddle” fundraiser for veterans.

“We have a couple of wonderful, high-end items with a culinary focus … there’s a trip to California wine country … and there’s a trip to New Orleans,” Davis said. “Then we’re going to show a video for our Veterans and the Arts Initiative, which is an amazing, transformative program that has served thousands of veterans and their families.”

The second night on Saturday brings a public performance from the great Odom Jr., who won a Tony Award playing Aaron Burr in Broadway’s “Hamilton” (2016) and earned two Oscar nominations for acting and singing as Sam Cooke in “One Night in Miami” (2020).

“This is a very big deal; it’s been almost a three-year process,” Davis said. “It’s such a thrill … giving what will be just a dynamic performance doing all kinds of repertoire. He’s a singer that comprises jazz, popular music and Broadway, an amazing breadth of repertoire, four albums and Broadway performances that are legendary, and the films.”

While in town, Odom Jr. will spend some time giving back to local students.

“Leslie Odom will be giving a masterclass for students from both George Mason and local schools, showing his soundcheck and rehearsal process,” Davis said. “He’s essentially letting folks in to watch and listen to him rehearse and engage in his process. To have access to an artist of this caliber and actually watch the work happen is really exciting.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Leslie Odom Jr. at Hylton Center (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow WTOP on Twitter and Instagram to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2022 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up