Friday, November 24th, 2017

Leslie Odom Jr. performs at Portland’s Merrill Auditorium

Warren Elgort

Posted on October 23, 2017 in Arts & Culture
By USM Free Press

Maverick Lynes

Leslie Odom Jr. recently graced Portland and the Merrill Auditorium with his love for both jazz and theatre. He was entertaining and remarkable. His voice is one that is listened to in awe and with jealousy. Odom Jr. can effortlessly tell a story through a song and hit the perfect notes, leaving the audience in amazement.

Accompanied by his five piece band, they gifted the stage with their musicality. From the piano to the guitar, the band performed flawlessly. Each of them having an opportunity to perform a solo and not one of them was disappointing. They were even cheering each other on through one another’s solos as if they were also part of the audience, just sitting there in fascination. The passion the musicians put into each and every song was nothing short of impressive and admirable.

Odom Jr., who is widely known for his role as Aaron Burr in the original broadway cast of Hamilton, a pop culture phenomenon that has taken over the world of broadway. Aside from opening his performance with the song “Wait For It” from Hamilton, Odom Jr. said that he would be saving the other songs from the musical for the end. Adding that he figured once people heard the Hamilton songs, they would be gone. To the shock of many audience members, when Odom Jr. asked if there was anybody who has not listened to the cast album, there were people who clapped in confession that they have not heard it. I was there because of the chance to vicariously see Hamilton through Odom Jr.’s performance of songs from the musical.

Odom Jr. payed tribute to the great Nat King Cole with renditions of his hits such as “Straighten Up and Fly Right” and “Unforgettable.” Odom Jr.’s covers were haunting and his true passion for jazz was clear. Prior to performing these songs, he stated that he hopes to do Cole justice. After listening to the performance, it can be said without a doubt that Cole is looking down in approval.

Odom Jr. also performed songs from his debut album that featured interpretations of beloved songs that have a special place in his heart. Songs such as, “Look For the Silver Lining” which was popularized by Judy Garland also “The Guilty Ones” from the prominent musical, Spring Awakening. My personal favorite came in the title of “Joey Joey Joey” from the musical, The Most Happy Fella which is quite the coincidence because that’s what I was when Odom Jr. was performing.

While his popularity largely springs from Hamilton, he has been an active figure in theater, television and film. He has appeared in the television show Smash as Sam Strickland, as well as in the film Red Tails as Declan ‘Winky’ Hall. Odom Jr. also joked with the audience about his small roles in Law and Order: SVU and even his part in the Nationwide commercial. While he did not perform his infamous cover of the Nationwide slogan, the audience was still pleased with what they saw.

Odom Jr. also has a Christmas Album called Simply Christmas and though he did not perform a song from that album.

Pleasing many in attendance, Odom Jr.’s final two songs of the night came from none other than Hamilton. With his performance of “Dear Theodosia” and “The Room Where It Happens” the audience was on cloud nine. Though the version he did was different from the theatrical version the majority of the crowd was used to; he performed these songs as if it were his first time, adding his unique flavor to it.

After finishing his final song the crowd rose to their feet to give a well deserved standing ovation. He could not stay off stage for long as he returned to give the audience one true final song. Odom Jr. ended the night with a song from the musical in which he made his broadway debut, a fairly popular musical that goes by the name of Rent. He performed a touching rendition of “Without You” which was a brilliant and heartfelt way to end the night.

Leslie Odom Jr. is incredibly gifted and has a talent level that is very rare. I am honored that for one night he shared that talent with me and the lucky people in attendance.