Broadway star Leslie Odom Jr., best known for his performance in the Pulitzer Prize winning musical “Hamilton,” was welcomed at the Ryan Center on Friday night by a crowd of enthusiastic and adoring fans.
The performance, which had originally been scheduled for Oct. 21, had been rescheduled due to Odom being asked to the White House by Barack Obama, president of the United States. Odom said he has met the president on several occasions now, but it is an experience you never to which you never become jaded. Joined by guests like Common and Usher, Odom said he was honored to be part of what’s likely to be Obama’s last major event in the White House as president.
The performance, rumored to be a one-man show, featured several musical numbers, as well as a lecture from Odom on his life experiences both before and after “Hamilton.” Many audience members came through the doors to hear more about “Hamilton,” but they expressed just as much excitement for Odom’s jazz numbers.
Odom’s voice was smooth, soft and sultry in his jazz numbers, but strong and powerful in contrast when performing songs from “Hamilton” or “Rent,” which he starred in at 17 years old. Despite the lack of familiarity with his ‘less popular’ numbers, Odom did not fail to impress the crowd.
He claimed to be nervous on stage while speaking to the crowd, but Odom exuded confidence during his seemingly easy back-and-forth banter with the audience. Getting over stage fright has been something Odom has looked past since kindergarten, however, when he first realized he wanted to be a performer, he knew he had to build the confidence.
Being able to play Martin Luther King Jr. in kindergarten and being the only student to have memorized his lines had a huge impact on his future career choice, but having the opportunity to attend live theater in high school was what helped Odom get started on this path.
When he auditioned for “Rent” at 17, Odom never imagined that he’d get the part, at least not then. He assumed he’d try out until he met what he thought was a talent and age requirement, since everyone in the show appeared so old to him. Rather than performing in “Rent” until retirement, Odom said he decided to attend Carnegie Mellon University in order to further perfect his craft.
Since graduating in 2003, Odom has found success and happiness in his field. Out of everything on his impressive resume, however, “Hamilton” shines the brightest. His decision to then leave the show in July became a huge shock to many. Odom said that he never wants to stop growing or experiencing new things, despite his love for the show.
When Odom opened to floor up to questions, audience members leapt from their seats and waved their hands wildly. What was only supposed to be a few questions, quickly turned into a dozen. Odom called on audience members curious about his back-stage life on Broadway, young fans looking for advice in the field of acting, and even a question from a relative of his costume dresser for “Hamilton.” Other members of the audience only wished to express their love and hopes for Odom’s future career.
Whether or not leaving “Hamilton,” was mistake, Odom said he’s unsure.
“Maybe the best is behind me,” Odom said. “Or maybe it’s not.”