Review: Leslie Odom, Jr. Delivers Wonderful Blend of Standards, Show-Tunes and New Music at Emerson Colonial Theatre

The Tony and Grammy winner recently made a Boston tour stop

By: May. 12, 2024
Review: Leslie Odom, Jr. Delivers Wonderful Blend of Standards, Show-Tunes and New Music at Emerson Colonial Theatre
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Leslie Odom, Jr., is on a roll.

The actor and singer is a 2024 Tony nominee for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play for his eponymous role in the revival of “Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp through the Cotton Patch,” the 1961 Ossie Davis play which is up for a total of six Tony Awards on June 16. The PBS series “Great Performances” will broadcast a recently filmed live performance of the play on May 24 at 9 pm.

Additionally, Odom’s fifth studio album, "When A Crooner Dies," was released on BMG in October of last year. With the new album selling briskly and “Purlie Victorious” ending its limited run at Broadway’s Music Box Theatre on February 4, Odom is now on the road with “An Evening with Leslie Odom, Jr.,” a concert tour that recently brought him to Boston’s Emerson Colonial Theatre.

Fashionably turned out in a cream-colored suit, Odom was joined onstage by his very talented band – a quartet that included music director Steven Walker on guitar, drummer David Chiverton, Christopher Cadenhead on piano and keyboards, and bass player Eric England – for a program of standards, show tunes, and new music.

A self-professed fan of the late Nat King Cole, Odom sprinkled several of the jazz and pop vocalist’s hits throughout the show, including a lush opening medley of “Mona Lisa,” “Straighten Up and Fly Right,” and “Smile.” Later in the program, Odom also delivered a beautiful version of “Unforgettable” that movingly evoked memories not only of Cole but also of his late daughter Natalie, whose remix of her father’s 1951 hit won the 1991 Grammy for Song of the Year.

Odom’s gorgeous rendering of “When I Fall in Love” – a 1996 Grammy-winning duet by Natalie Cole, sung to her father’s 1956 recording of the song – was the perfect counterpoint to his own version of “L-O-V-E,” a 1956 hit for Nat King Cole, while his contemplative vocals were a perfect fit on “Autumn Leaves,” a jazz standard recorded by everyone from Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra to Dinah Shore.

While music by the Coles was prominently featured, the more than 90-minute-long set also saw Odom shine on a glorious, reverential “Ave Maria” that brought his audience to attentive silence. He was in fine form on Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young,” which he performed a cappella, and “Without You,” from “Rent. The now 42-year-old made his Broadway debut at age 17 playing Paul and other small roles in that Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical, and he fondly recalled its late composer, lyricist, and book writer, Jonathan Larson.

“When I’m singing songs from ‘Rent,’ I’m trying to connect with Jonathan and thank him for changing my life. Jonathan Larson changed my life,” he said.

The performer would have his life changed once again, this time by Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and librettist of “Hamilton: An American Musical,” in which Odom played Aaron Burr. In 2016, Odom won both the Tony for Best Leading Actor in a Musical and a Grammy for Best Musical Theater Album for the show.

So it was not surprising that the Colonial audience gave their rapt attention to Odom when he performed “Alexander Hamilton,” “Dear Theodosia,” “Wait for It,” and “The Room Where It Happens” during a rapturously received encore that brought the near-capacity crowd to its feet.

Odom will be on tour through December, with upcoming concerts planned for New Jersey, Ohio, New York, Utah, Los Angeles, and Nashville.


Photo caption: Leslie Odom Jr. recently performed his current concert act, “An Evening with Leslie Odom, Jr.,” at the Emerson Colonial Theatre. Photo by Tony Duran.


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