Leslie Odom Jr. follows his passion. The man is non-stop.
The Tony Award-winning performer has been on a whirlwind since he rose to fame as Aaron Burr in hip-hop Broadway musical juggernaut “Hamilton.” Odom earned critical acclaim and several accolades including a Tony Award, for his portrayal of the charismatic, vulnerable and complicated founding father.
When he left the show in 2016, Odom kept pushing further, pursuing a solo career and touring to spread his love of performing to fans around the country.
He brings his multifaceted solo show to the area on Wednesday, Jan. 17, at 7:30 p.m. when he performs at Wyoming Seminary’s Kirby Center for Creative Arts, 260 N. Sprague Ave., Kingston.
“I’m kind of lucky I get to bring as much of myself in able to into the work,” Odom said during a recent phone interview, enroute to travel from Los Angeles to Indianapolis. “It’s all deeply personal to me, touring and connecting with fans in a more open way. … I’m up there telling the stories about my life and singing songs I love.”
Since 2016, Odom put out two albums: a self-titled work of jazz standards, showtunes and originals he released just before his exit from Broadway and “Simply Christmas,” which is full the performer’s crisp, smooth take on seasonal classics.
These works can be expected during his stop in Kingston, but Odom promised fans that’s not all. He doesn’t believe in people leaving disappointed after a concert and will perform some songs from “Hamilton” plus selections from other work he’s known for, including NBC’s musical television show “Smash.”
Many of these songs take on different meanings for Odom during his concerts. When performing “Hamilton” songs, like “Dear Theodosia,” a ballad Burr and Hamilton sing about their children, or “Wait For It,” on Burr’s undying determination, he’s singing these as himself, which transports the music into a different realm.
“Songs from the show are really nice to perform out of context,” he explained. “Bringing it in to a concert, you get to color outside the lines. Some songs take on new meaning when it’s not Aaron Burr singing it.”
In between making music and touring, Odom’s kept busy acting, like appearing in last year’s “Murder on the Orient Express” alongside Daisy Ridley, and continues to pursue different avenues. His book, “Failing Up” is due out in March and is written in the style of a commencement speech. The narrative details how Odom’s greatest successes came from his greatest risks and how he allowed himself to be open to defeat.
“The better part of it is the story of how everything in my life turned around the first time I gave myself permission to fail,” he said.
Odom worked as an actor on stage and television before landing his big break but admits it was a challenge. He kept working toward his goal and what made him feel alive but success didn’t happen immediately.
“That can be the biggest eye roll, ‘Yeah, but you had ‘Hamilton,’ but I didn’t know that seven or eight years ago, struggling, trying to get jobs,” Odom said with a laugh. “I didn’t know that the role of a lifetime would come to me. I was just following my passion and my heart. … and eventually found my way to ‘Hamilton.’”
Odom’s advice to young people finding their path echoes his own life. He encourages anyone to surround themselves with what makes them happiest. Whether it be a career in performing arts, math or medicine, keep moving toward it and be open to where it takes you.
“Read about, talk about it, learn as much as you can about it. Follow your passion and those things will love you back,” he said. “Keep walking toward those things that light you up. … I didn’t know take this step, then take this step. I just loved it, you know? I loved it and found a way to dream myself into the world I loved so much.”
Odom took the holidays to unplug and clear his mind and is coming into the new year feeling refreshed, focused and balanced. He’s ready to continue to challenge himself and to reach as many people as he can through his passion.
“(It’s) the fact that I got to express myself in such a way that felt total and complete and now get to sort of be the architect of the rest of my journey and go where my inspiration leads,” he said. “It’s that I get to go around the country and meet fans and people who didn’t have a chance to see the show and some that may never get to go to New York (City) to see the show. We get to bring it to them.”
If you go
What: Sem Presents! featuring Leslie Odom Jr.
When: Wednesday, Jan. 17, at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Wyoming Seminary’s Kirby Center for Creative Arts, 260 N. Sprague Ave., Kingston
Details: Tickets are $35-$70 and can be purchased online at wyomingseminary.org/arts/sempresents.