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Jazz, Musical Theatre, Orchestral Music, Pop, Vocal Music Review



The Nat King Cole of Broadway: Leslie Odom, Jr., and the NC Symphony


Event  Information

Raleigh -- ( Fri., Oct. 18, 2019 - Sat., Oct. 19, 2019 )

North Carolina Symphony: Leslie Odom, Jr.
Performed by North Carolina Symphony
$ -- Meymandi Concert Hall at Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts , 919.733.2750 , http://www.ncsymphony.org

October 18, 2019 - Raleigh, NC:


Few names have been as synonymous with the phenomenal rise of the Broadway sensation Hamilton as Leslie Odom, Jr. He's now diversifying into a growing recording a television career, and Odom's performance with the North Carolina Symphony contained music to dazzle everyone, from Broadway to jazz to everything in between. Under the baton of conductor Wesley Schultz, the NC Symphony opened its pops season with this fabulous, unforgettable Meymandi Hall concert.

Originating the role of Aaron Burr while Lin-Manuel Miranda's musical was still off-Broadway, then captivating Broadway audiences, the magnificent voice and interpretation of the role by Leslie Odom, Jr., set a high standard for years to come. In 2016, the year of his last appearances as Burr in Hamilton, he won a Tony and a Grammy for his performance (the latter for the well-loved original cast recording). Since then, he has released two albums with a third (of original songs) to come later this year. As a result, his performance was a hodgepodge of styles, linked together with Odom's fiery jazz quintet, and of course, the full orchestra.

After the locomotive, syncopated Overture from Funny Girl, Odom burst onstage with a sweeping, powerful rendition of "Wait for It." Watching and hearing this performance, one would never suspect that he's sung this song hundreds, possibly thousands, of times – it was as passionate as a first performance. Saving more Hamilton material for later in the show, he then launched into a kaleidoscope of holiday-ish tunes ("Winter Song" and Auld Lang Syne") and, of course, jazz standards. Some of these songs are in his recorded canon but all were spellbinding and soared to different heights when performed live with the full orchestra.

This voice could be described a having the power and emotion of musical theater with the nuance of vocal jazz. Although the first half was largely jazz-dominated, it was this duplicity that made his performance of standards a step above – and of course, he was augmented by the sheer power and skill of all the other musicians onstage.

For the second half of the concert, Odom touched more on his musical theater "roots": "Sarah" from The Civil War, "The Guilty Ones" from Spring Awakening, and (much awaited) "Dear Theodosia" and "The Room Where it Happens" from Hamilton. The latter two were surely enjoyed by both long-time and brand-new fans of the musical alike. After thunderous applause, the guest artist appeared again for an encore, singing the heartbreaking ballad "Without You" from Rent (wherein he had made his Broadway debut) with acoustic guitar and prismatic strings. The orchestra and somehow made this emotional song sound uplifting, closing a really wonderful concert.

This program repeats Oct. 19 in the same venue. See the sidebar for details.