**FILE** Leslie Odom Jr. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)
**FILE** Leslie Odom Jr. (Roy Lewis/The Washington Informer)

In his fresh red suit, perfect for the holiday season, Leslie Odom Jr. donned the Eisenhower Stage at the Kennedy Center in northwest D.C. for two days, Nov. 26-27. The Tony Award-winner performed Christmas classics alongside some new and original content much to the audience’s delight.

Odom captivated the audience with his charismatic and gentle voice that he delivered with apparent ease. He performed with a live band and continued to give them their props throughout the performance. The stage featured decorations befitting the theme of the show, simple and tasteful. There were miniature Christmas trees and poinsettias across the stage and backdrops that changed colors throughout. Less was more and when someone has a voice like Odom excessive props remain unnecessary.

“The Christmas Song” opened the show and this classic tune was everything and more for what was expected of the performer. His interpretation of “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” took a jazz turn with Odom inserting his successfully soothing runs in a way rarely heard.

Much to the audience’s surprise, Odom performed a song from “Hamilton.” The excitement over the musical still lingers six years after its Broadway debut in 2015. Odom’s portrayal of Aaron Burr in the musical remains a classic and has set the tone for subsequent performances with new casts.

Engaging with the audience, Odom read “The Night Before Christmas,” employing his theatrical background that came in hand when reciting the story. His animated storytelling engaged the audience which would be balanced with a soothing refrain performed by the pianist.

Noting his opportunity to play the legendary Sam Cooke, Odom discussed the path he traveled to the role following his landmark performance in “Hamilton.” As for his rendition of “A Change is Gonna Come,” he hit the mark. At first, he said he did not realize he was going to be singing the songs of Cooke for the role and assumed the filmmakers would use Cooke’s original tracks. Odom further stated it was a great experience learning to sing and breathe like Cooke.

“Heaven & Earth” counted as one of the most touching and personal songs Odom performed. He went on to say how being in the delivery room of his children’s births could only be described as “miracles.” In his delivery, Odom connected with the audience on yet another level.

He ended the show with “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” upon which he received a standing ovation from the audience. Cheers continued long after Odom and the band left the stage.

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