By Eric Hayes
Indianapolis- The Cabaret at The Columbia Club.
Acclaimed Broadway and TV singer/actor Leslie Odom, Jr made his cabaret debut showcasing an array of Broadway, Pop, Jazz, R&B, and more. Broadway fans are familiar with Odom through his work in “Rent” and more recently in the Alan Menken musical “Leap of Faith” last year. TV fans might know him as Sam Strickland on NBC’s “Smash”, currently in it’s second season.
For his cabaret debut, Odom displayed a charismatic, charming, and engaging style that the audience truly enjoyed. Made evident though his opening number “Tomorrow Today” which is a jazz-Broadway style tune written by Marc Shaiman & Scott Wittman. The song is featured on an upcoming episode of Smash. Odom seamlessly segued into R&B-Jazz tinged version of “On A Clear Day You Can See Forever”. This arrangement was one of the best of the night. A great version of “It Might Be You” followed and introduced the audience to his wife, Nicolette Robinson-Odom.
Odom’s most surprising work came in his medley of songs from “Jersey Boys”. As a part of the workshop production cast at La Jolla Playhouse in 2005, Odom showed a true mastery of the vocal styles represented in the musical. He effortlessly glided through the falsetto vocals required on “Walk Like A Man” and “Big Girls Don’t Cry”. Background vocals were provided by his outstanding musical director Todd Schroeder and equally talented wife Nicolette Robinson-Odom who is featured throughout the show. Their duet of “I’ll Know” from Guys & Dolls was yet another hit.
Other standout selections were “Walking Like Daddy”, his featured piece from Leap of Faith and his medley of “One Song Glory” & “Living In America”. Odom made his Broadway debut in Rent at the age of 17. The youngest debut in the history of that show. His storytelling of that experience was inspiring and meaningful.
Act 1 ended with a couple of Sammy Davis, Jr. pieces. In a seemingly more acoustic style, Odom sung through “Mr. Bojangles” and “What Kind of Fool Am I”. His ability to inhabit character and reverence history made this choice so outstanding.
Act 2 opened with Leslie & Nicolette singing the classic Sonny & Cher song “I Got You Babe”. The husband and wife team made this fun, honest, and refreshing. Odom continued to truly impress with covers from Marvin Gaye’s, Nat King Cole tribute album. He seemed very at home singing “Straighten Up and Fly Right”, “Mona Lisa Smile”, and “Unforgettable”.
Two very heartfelt performances came in renditions of “Sarah” from the Frank Wildhorn musical “Civil War” and “Whoever You Are I Love You” by Burt Bachrach.
Odom seemed right at home closing his performance on a soulful high note, singing “Stand”. A song he was featured in during the first season of Smash.
From the opening of the show to the encore, Leslie Odom, Jr was a wonderful vocalist, easy storyteller, and honest performing artist. This made for a great evening. If the standing ovation from the audience was any indication, his cabaret debut was a huge success. We can only wait patiently for more influential and astounding work from this talented star.