Leslie Odom, Jr. theatre roles we love

The Tony and Grammy Award-winning Hamilton star has a long career on and off Broadway, and he now returns to the stage to lead Purlie Victorious.

Joe Dziemianowicz
Joe Dziemianowicz

Wait for it. Ever since Leslie Odom, Jr. wrapped his award-winning and career-boosting star turn in Hamilton in 2016, we’ve been cooling our heels in anticipation of his Broadway return.

Seven years later, he’s back – and not in a musical. Odom shoulders the title role in the first Broadway revival of Ossie Davis’s 1961 play, Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch. Odom plays a traveling preacher on a mission in smalltown Georgia.

Odom has been busy while he’s been off stage. He stars opposite Ellen Burstein in horror sequel The Exorcist: Believer, opening October 3. Last year, he was part of the starry ensemble of the thriller Glass Onion. But his roots as a theatre star remain strong.

Now that Odom's back on Broadway, take a romp through his notable theatre and stage-adjacent roles.

Rent

Seasons of love can bring Broadway firsts. In 1998, at 17 years old, Odom made his debut as a replacement in Jonathan Larson’s Pulitzer-winning rock musical. He covered multiple roles, including a cop and Paul, who shines in “Life Support,” a reminder that there’s “no day but today.”

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Smash

As if a theatre fan needs a recap: The 2012 NBC series covered the ups, downs, and sideways of creating a Marilyn Monroe musical. Odom played Sam, an ensemble member who is friends with Ivy (Megan Hilty, a contender for the star part), and dates the composer, Tom (Christian Borle, now in Some Like It Hot).

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Leap of Faith

Based on the 1992 Steve Martin movie, the 2012 Broadway musical adaptation starred Raúl Esparza as a con man faking it as a holy roller. Odom, reprising his role from a 2010 Los Angeles run, played the upright Isaiah Sturdevant. The show’s reviews were mixed, but one critic called out Odom as “fantastic.”

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Venice

Based loosely on the Shakespeare classic Othello, the hip-hop-flavored musical by Matt Sax and Eric Rosen is set in a war-torn, not-so-distant future, where broken ties between two brothers parallel the relationship between Othello and Iago. Odom played Markos, a warmongering commander. The Public Theater presentation ran in 2013.

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Tick, Tick… Boom!

In 2014, Odom starred alongside Lin-Minuel Miranda and Karen Olivo in Rent creator Jonathan Larson’s autobiographical musical about a struggling songwriter, Jon, who’s questioning his future. In the weeklong run with the Encores! Off-Center series of rarely revived musicals, Odom played the artist’s best friend.

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Hamilton

Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2015 landmark musical about Alexander Hamilton cast a brilliant spotlight on Odom, who confidently stepped into it and slayed as Aaron Burr, “the damn fool that shot” and killed the “$10 Founding Father.” He won a Tony and a Grammy and left indelible musical marks with “Wait for It,” “The Room Where It Happens,” and “Dear Theodosia.”

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One Night in Miami...

Odom earned an Oscar nomination for his portrait of Sam Cooke in this 2020 film directed by Regina King. Author Kemp Powers based the movie script on his 2013 play of the same name that imagines what went down at an actual February 1964 meeting of four African American icons: Cooke, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and Jim Brown. Odom’s role included performing “A Change Is Gonna Come,” a song that would emerge as a civil rights anthem.

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Purlie Victorious: A Non-Confederate Romp Through the Cotton Patch

It’s been more than six decades since the play’s Broadway debut, and the repressive attitudes it targets makes it seem evergreen. Odom plays Purlie, who returns to his hometown in the south with hopes of integrating a church. It won’t be easy. Expect the fanged comedy to sink its teeth into enduring stereotypes — and Odom to take us all to church as only he can.

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