Odom delights the audience in Hancher appearance

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By Claire Dietz

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On Monday evening, the multi-hyphenate actor-singer Leslie Odom Jr., most famous for his portrayal of Aaron Burr in the smash hit musical Hamilton, performed and spoke to a nearly full crowd in Hancher.

Odom opened with two jazz-style pieces before outlining his life leading up to and after Hamilton.
He began his stage career as a kindergartener playing Martin Luther King Jr. Only given four lines, he insisted saying them without a teacher’s help.

“And thus a ham was born,” he cried, to many laughs and much applause.

From the moments as King, Odom became enraptured with the hit musical Rent. When he finally saw it performed live, he was enraptured. In fact, he credits a mere wink between cast members before the second act as the catalyst that sent him down the theatrical path.

“[That wink made me] want to know what was going on backstage,” he said.

Odom was fascinated by the questions the wink carried. Was it an inside joke? Or were they flirting? Or was it simply for fun? These questions propelled him Closer to the stage.

Years later, Odom encountered Lin-Manuel Miranda performing what would eventually become Hamilton at a play festival in New York.

The musical was in its infancy, with grand musical numbers being sung from music stands, making the leap from the page to the stage before the audience’s eyes.

The song that changed everything for Odom was “The Story of Tonight,” one of the first songs in the musical Hamilton.

It stood out to Odom because he saw four men of color acting out a story and song of brotherhood. He had never seen something like that onstage before, and he wanted to be a part of it in whatever way he could.

“I would have been the first Hamilton groupie,” he said and laughed.

Odom was in the musical’s corner from the beginning and seems to have no intention of leaving it.

After speaking about his life, Odom, of course, had to sing Burr’s biggest songs, including “Wait For It,” “Dear Theodosia,” and “The Room Where It Happens.”

One song that has changed for him since leaving the production is the song “Dear Theodosia.” He and his wife are expecting their first child in five weeks, and that anticipation has altered the song’s significance.

“I could barely get through it before; I can’t imagine doing it now,” he said before delivering a soulful, acoustic rendition of the song.

As Odom spoke and sang, Hamilton fans seemed to be literally burst from the rafters. Almost all 1,800 Hancher seats were filled. Some attendees were clutching Hamilton soundtracks, others were holding the book detailing writer Miranda’s process of writing the lyrics to the show.

Many of those sitting in the highest balconies waved frantically at Odom as he came across stage to sing and discuss how he came and went from the production.

It was a night full of laughs and inspiring discussions of what it means, and how hard it may be, to chase dreams.

Young children dotted the crowd, along with college-age students all with the same goal in mind: to follows their passions, whatever they may be.

For them, this may have provided a peek into the rehearsal rooms and performance halls in which it happens, or perhaps just it just showed that achieving one’s dreams is not as far out of reach as it may seem.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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