Leslie Odom Jr. Finds Home Onstage
April 1, 2022 @ 9:00am
Despite receiving accolades for his roles in film and television, including portraying Sam Cooke in “One Night in Miami” and starring in “Harriet” and “Murder on the Orient Express,” Leslie Odom Jr. still finds he is most at home when returning to the stage where he got his start and performing live. On April 30 at the Hylton Performing Arts Center, the Grammy and Tony Award winner who is on the road to EGOT status will take the stage to perform a medley of music. In the slow unfolding toward normalcy, nothing feels more apropos than celebrating live music’s comeback with one of Broadway’s biggest stars of the last decade. We had a chance to catch up with Odom about what he looks forward to when visiting the DMV area, his “Hamilton” days and the key to a great Philly cheesesteak.
District Fray: As an actor, singer and writer, what can audiences expect at your upcoming show at Hylton Performing Arts Center?
Leslie Odom Jr.: A party. Live shows are my favorite and the only real time I get to connect with the people we make all this stuff for. I did 500 shows as Burr between the off-Broadway and Broadway runs of “Hamilton.” But more people watched “Hamilton” on Disney+ in the first weekend it was available than all the sold-out crowds put together in New York. The streamers have more reach without question, [but it] doesn’t change the fact that performing live is my favorite. At the live show we’ll do Broadway, jazz, R&B and some traditional pop. We never want people leaving without a smile on their faces.
Walk me through a typical tour day. Do you have any preparation rituals before performing live?
I try to get a good night’s sleep the day before. Rest goes a long way in making sure my voice will have the stamina to last through a 75-minute show. I will have a soundcheck and/or a rehearsal with the musicians in the concert space or hall. My college voice teacher will lead me through a vocal warm-up on FaceTime. I grab a light bite and maybe a workout before showtime, say a prayer and then we hit it.
Are there any places you would like to visit in the D.C. area before leaving?
I’ve been to D.C. a bunch but I’ve never made a special trip to see the cherry blossom trees in all their splendor. Last time I was there, a D.C. native made me promise I’d include it on my next trip.
You performed at the White House with the “Hamilton” original cast almost exactly six years ago (March 2016). What do you remember about that experience?
It was the honor of my career. We were invited and given private audience with the leader of the free world. We had the undivided attention of President Obama, the First Lady, their staff and special guests. The art mattered that day.
“Central Park” season two is currently airing on Apple+. How does voice acting differ from other forms of acting?
It doesn’t really. While the audience sees the creative rendering of the character designed by our expert animation team, the work we do in the vocal booth is as physical and requires the same investment as live-action work.
Animated sitcoms historically can run for multiple seasons. What do you look forward to about continuing to play the “Central Park” character Owen Tillerman?
[I’m] always looking for ways to improve [my] portrayal. I’m always looking to deepen. I hope we get time to tease out all the humanity we can from these characters over many, many seasons.
With your growing list of roles played both onstage and in television and film, is there one character who still sticks with you? If so, which character and why?
Burr. Without a doubt. “Hamilton” shook up the world and changed our lives in the process. I’ll be grateful for my association with that material for as I long as I live, I suspect.
And most importantly, as a fellow Pennsylvanian who grew up in the Philadelphia area, what makes a great cheesesteak?
The seasoning on the beef, quality of the cheese and freshness of the roll.
Get your tickets for Leslie Odom Jr.’s live show in the DMV on Saturday, April 30 at 8 p.m. at Hylton Performing Arts Center at hylton.calendar.gmu.edu.
Hylton Performing Arts Center: 10960 George Mason Cir. Manassas, VA; hyltoncenter.org // @hylton_pac
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