Aaron Burr — Sam Cooke, too — will honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. in a ceremony at the Kennedy Center on the federal holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader. That is to say, the acclaimed actor who has played those historical figures on stage and screen will be featured at this year’s Let Freedom Ring! Celebration presented by the Kennedy Center in collaboration with Georgetown University.
After becoming a Tony-winning Broadway star in 2015 with his portrayal of the American vice president and villain of Hamilton, Leslie Odom, Jr. has mostly worked in film and TV, taking on the role of William Still opposite Cynthia Erivo in Harriet.
He portrayed Cooke in Amazon Studios’ One Night in Miami, which garnered him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor, and played a mobster in The Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark on HBO Max.
He earned two Emmy nominations since the pandemic, the first for his voice-over work in Apple TV+’s animated musical comedy series Central Park, followed a year later for his work portraying Burr in the Disney+ version of Hamilton.
All of that is purely incidental to his upcoming performance at the Kennedy Center, which will be more in line with his work co-hosting CBS’s 2021 Tony Awards with Audra McDonald.
In fact, Odom follows McDonald by four years as a featured headliner with the Let Freedom Ring! Celebration, an annual event launched as a joint project with Georgetown University in 2003 with featured guest Roberta Flack.
Over the years the illustrious line of King-tributing performers at the Kennedy Center has included Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Ossie Davis, Smokey Robinson, Dionne Warwick, Bobby McFerrin, Jessye Norman, Aaron Neville, Brian McKnight, Denyce Graves, India Arie, Natalie Cole, Vanessa Williams, Yolanda Adams (twice), Gladys Knight, Brian Stokes Mitchell (who co-hosted with McDonald), and Chaka Khan.
The free musical celebration, which will also be streamed live as part of the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage daily performance series, always features the Let Freedom Ring Choir led by music producer Nolan Williams, Jr.
During the program, Georgetown will present the annual John Thompson, Jr. Legacy of a Dream Award to Paula Fitzgerald in recognition of her work in leading Ayuda and its work in assisting low-income immigrants in D.C. and the surrounding region.
Monday, Jan. 16, at 6 p.m. Concert Hall. Free tickets will be given away two per person on a first-come, first-served basis starting at 4:30 p.m. Visit www.kennedy-center.org or call 202-467-4600.
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