How is this for a recipe for successful musical performance:
- Take one part venue—the intimate and comfortable Hylton Performing Arts Center’s Merchant Hall;
- Add another part talented musicians who play tight and can handle various music styles;
- Take a pinch of pent-up music lovers and GMU Arts sponsors; and
- Liberally stir in the incandescent talent of Grammy- and Tony award-winner, Leslie Odom, Jr.
And you have a night to remember—a little night music and plenty of great moments.
Odom Jr., who originated the role of Aaron Burr in the Broadway’s blockbuster, “Hamilton,” was the highlight of the Hylton 12th Anniversary Gala, a two-day celebration of the arts.
…a delightful throwback to great singers and the standards of past decades.
While I try to avoid using the word “normal,” concert venues are gradually being booked and filled and Odom, Jr. expressed relief at not seeing everyone on Zoom. While “Hamilton” is known for its groundbreaking pop-funk-rap fusion and energetic staging, with this version of Odom, Jr., we were given a delightful throwback to the great singers and standards of past decades. The concert included the Gershwin songbook and emulating legends such as Nat King Cole and Sam Cooke.
He effortlessly gives us classics such as “When I Fall,” “L-O-V-E,” “Wait For It” and “Mona Lisa” and also expressed his appreciation with the golden era of movies, which as he says, gave us a treasure trove of music. He continued his homage to classic movie songs, with audience participation, in a rendition of “Minnie the Moocher.”
As he ambles onstage, Odom, Jr. gives off an easy likability, reflected in his love of his craft. Both an artist and technician, his vocals are so clear and flow so naturally that he never seems to need to inject more power. He possesses a tenor range, but he is not able to be placed in a category. If I had to, I would call him a crooner. Interestingly, he playfully used a hand mic and stand, a touch of old school that also allows more variation and subtlety based on the mic position.
His critically acclaimed work in the movie ,“One Night in Miami,” portraying Sam Cooke celebrating Mohammad Ali’s victory over Sonny Liston, produced the songs “Speak Now” and “Change Gonna Come.”
Backed by a musical foursome of Steven Walker, Eric England, Gene Coyle, and Christopher Cadenhead, the band ably rolled with different genres to give a wide range of sound. The pink snowflake spotlight effects weren’t needed but brief.
Odom Jr. had to serve up some “Hamilton” to his hungry audience and gave them his signature “Room Where It Happens” and the tender “Dear Theodosia.” I’ve listened to many singers over the years and Leslie Odom Jr. is one of the few I listen with rapt attention, waiting to see what would come next and marveling at the tone and easy expression of his voice.
The annual Hylton Gala event ensures that quality theatre and performance will be well-sustained at a venue that is quickly becoming a premiere destination for top tier talent. This year was a record-breaker for the Center, raising more than $225,000 which will support performances and programs, such as their Education Initiative and Veterans and the Arts Initiative.
Running Time: 70 minutes.
Leslie Odom Jr. performed on April 30, 2022 at the Hylton Performing Arts Center, Merchant Hall, 10960 George Mason Circle, Manassas, VA, as part of Hylton’s 12th Anniversary Gala Event. For tickets to other performances in the 2022-23 season, call (703) 993-7550, or go online.