Leslie Odom Jr.performed at Baker Hall on Nov. 11 at Zoellner Arts Center. Odom Jr. is a Tony Award-winning actor who portrayed Aaron Burr in the Broadway blockbuster "Hamilton." (Annie Henry/B&W Staff)

Leslie Odom Jr. of ‘Hamilton’ performs concert at Zoellner

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Singer and Tony Award-winning actor Leslie Odom Jr. performed a variety of jazz and Broadway music from his solo album in Zoellner Arts Center’s Baker Hall on Nov. 11.

Andrew Cassano, the administrative director at Zoellner, said Odom came to Lehigh as part of a guest artist series that presents major artists from all over the world.

The performance was part of Odom’s concert tour. Cassano said Odom is performing at other colleges and venues around the country, but Lehigh is one of the few destinations that is hosting Odom as a solo artist.

Odom is best known for playing Aaron Burr in the Broadway hit “Hamilton.” Cassano described Odom as an up-and-coming star on Broadway who has been featured in “Jersey Boys” and “Rent.” Odom has also been a guest star on TV shows such as “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” and “CSI: Miami,” and he secured a recurring role in “Smash” before it was cancelled. Cassano said Odom also plays a major role in the Kenneth Branagh film “Murder on the Orient Express,” which premiered in theaters Nov. 10.

“His performance style and his vocalizing stylings are very unique,” Cassano said. “He does really fantastic adaptations that suit the type of voice that he has. He has got a wonderful theatricality that he gets from being a fantastic Broadway performer that he makes his own.”

Odom and his accompaniment performed pieces from Broadway shows “Spring Awakening,” “Rent” and “Hamilton.” They also played jazz classics such as “Joey, Joey, Joey” and “Unforgettable.”

The instrumental set included percussion, drums, an upright bass, piano and guitar. Each musician was featured in solos throughout the concert. The audience erupted in applause and cheers after each solo and song.

Odom said he strives to be a singer like the late Nat King Cole. The audience watched in silence when Odom sang a cappella, showcasing his tone and vocal range.   

In between pieces, Odom spoke to the audience about his desire to make music after leaving “Hamilton.” He joked that he had to leave the show at some point because he couldn’t eventually play a 70-year-old Burr.

Attendees included Bethlehem residents and Lehigh students, some of which attended with their families because the concert aligned with Lehigh’s family weekend. All of the seats in Baker Hall were filled, including the balcony section.

After the show, Brian Logsdon, ’19, excitedly talked with his friends about how bass player Orlando Le Fleming and piano player Michael Mitchell performed with passion and appreciation for music.

“I’m blown away,” Logsdon said. 

Kacy and Dan Rhoton, a couple that lives in Bethlehem, said this concert was their first time attending an event at Zoellner. Kacy said they saw a show at Muhlenberg College that advertised Odom’s concert in the program.

Another attendee, Dabney Brice, ’18, said she discovered Odom in “Smash” and then in “Hamilton.”

“I came because he’s a beautiful black man with a beautiful voice,” Brice said. “The day they put out tickets, I bought them.”

Zoellner’s artistic director Deborah Sacarakis introduced Odom and said he was raised in Pennsylvania, sparking excitement among the crowd.

Odom told the audience he first encountered “Hamilton” at a performance at Vassar College and fell in love with the show after seeing the friendship of four men of color performing the song “The Story of Tonight.”

He said he saved the “Hamilton” songs for the end of the concert because he knew they were the most popular and wanted the audience to wait. He ended the concert with “The Room Where it Happens,” which prompted a standing ovation and encore.

“I am melting inside,” Sam Everes, ’19, said after the show.

Brice said the concert left her speechless. 

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