In the musical “Hamilton”, Aaron Burr sings about being “in the room where this is happening”. The Southern Theater setting on Saturday night was hardly groundbreaking, but the sold-out 2018 ProMusica Chamber Orchestra night, starring former “Hamilton” star Leslie Odom Jr., had a sense of similar significance.
Odom replaced another artist quite late, and the change was fortuitous. Odom is a stellar artist. With his fanfare and accompanying orchestra, he presented an electrifying program of musical theater and jazz.
Although he is an actor and recipient of numerous awards, his concert performances are never self-promotional. It recalls the external energy, focusing on the microphone and allowing the lyrics and music to grab the attention of the listener.
Although Odom’s run with “Hamilton” ended in 2016, his role as Aaron Burr is probably the job he’s best known for. “Wait for It” and “Dear Theodosia” were received with enthusiasm.
The audience was raving when Odom took the stage, and again for his callbacks, but in between, he got everyone’s attention.
In “Sarah” from “The Civil War” the words of a dying soldier rose above a vast orchestra; hardly a breath was heard in the house. “Without You,” from “Rent,” spanned nearly 20 years of emotion and thoughtfulness, starting when Odom was cast on the show as a teenager.
During “The Guilty Ones” of “Spring Awakening,” Odom gave his band members some solo time, familiarizing audiences with their prowess.
Musical theater, however, is not the only place where Odom excels. In recent years he has released two albums, with more in the pipeline. He also performs on television and in movies, and last month his first book was published. This rich array of experiences in the arts gives her a well-developed perspective when performing.
His respect for Nat “King” Cole runs deep, and when he sings jazz he has a similar, smooth and elegant approach. “Unforgettable” was impeccable, “I Know That You Know” was polite and “Straighten Up and Fly Right” was witty.
Sarah Bareilles’ “Winter Song” and Jerome Kern’s “Look for the Silver Lining” had all the best characteristics of jazz / pop standards, but it was Frank Loesser’s “Joey, Joey, Joey” who put the performance through. ‘impressive to sublime. Odom vanished into vulnerability in the face of a completely silent audience.
Alone, the orchestra, with musical director David Danzmayr, danced Bernstein’s Overture to “West Side Story” and Bizet’s “Farandole” from L’Arlésienne Suite No. 2. some of Bernstein’s colorful stamps and Bizet’s counterpoint.
Naturally, the breathtaking “The Room Where It Happens” closed the concert, but not to be outdone by his explosive energy, Odom returned for a memorable and provocative encore: the pop hit “Killing Me Softly With His Song” .