There was Keri Hilson, stunning in a black ensemble as she inquired about a coat check.
Toni Braxton, her hair long, her blue dress slinky and sleeveless, jokingly asking if she could borrow glasses from any audience member who, like she, is far-sighted.
And, finally, the man of the evening, Devyne Stephens, standing in front of a full band in a white tux with gold bow tie, vigorously conducting them as they performed Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Carol of the Bells.”
That was the scene inside Buckhead Theatre Wednesday night, as Stephens’ star-blanketed annual Christmas gala, themed as a “Winter Wonderland,” unfolded.
This year’s event honored Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds – who also took the stage to sing a rousing gospel-flavored “Silent Night” – and Tyler Perry for his accomplishments with Tyler Perry Studios.
But the bigger focus was on Stephens’ contributions to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Hughes Spalding and his own charity, Devyne Intervention.
Before the performances, Mayor Kasim Reed stood behind an onstage podium and called Stephens “a trailblazer” who makes it his mission to give back.
“Each of us has a role to play in leading and inspiring the next generation,” Reed said. “Devyne is a tremendous friend to the city of Atlanta.”
After a lengthy interlude by five-sibling R&B boy band Audio (formerly B5 and now signed to Stephens’ UpFront Records), Babyface, looking dapper in a black velvet jacket, returned to formally introduce Stephens.
The Atlanta hitmaker projected a humble stance as he enveloped Babyface in a bear hug and said he would ignore the note cards in his pocket to instead speak from the heart.
“Thank you,” he said to Babyface,” for seeing something in me and signing me to LaFace Records.”
Stephens then talked about his early and ongoing friendship with Atlanta-transplant Akon.
“I took the business road, he took the performance road,” Stephens said, as Akon – a participant in last week’s funniest-of-the-season digital short on “Saturday Night Live” – hopped on stage to hug his mentor.
The purpose of the event, which became a full-fledged dance party, was to spotlight Stephens’ charitable causes, but it also served as another reminder of Atlanta’s significance in the music industry.
Said Stephens, a native of College Park, “I’m a living example of what music can do.”