It's rare for a Broadway show to become such a hit that it becomes a cultural phenomenon, and yet, that's just what happened with Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton. The show was a unique blend of American history and hip hop music and even if you never saw the show on the stage, you likely knew a lot about it and became a big fan of the music. For most the show's success likely came as a surprise, but Leslie Odom Jr., who would go on to win a Tony Award for his performance in the show, says he knew Hamilton was something special literally from the beginning.
Before Hamilton was a Broadway stage show it was a live performance called The Hamilton Mix-Tape, and Leslie Odom Jr. was able to attend a reading of the show at Vassar. He recently told CBS that he knew from literally the first lines of the opening number that he was attending something unique. As Odom explains...
Leslie Odom Jr: There was a reading of this thing happening called ‘The Hamilton Mix Tape' at Vassar. And I scored the very last folding chair in the very last row.
CBS: Cause you had a buddy who was an usher, and so you got the last seat?
Odom Jr: Yeah.
CBS: And how much of it did you have to hear before you knew?’
Odom Jr: Twenty seconds, max?
'How does a bastard orphan son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean …'
What am I hearing?
Leslie Odom Jr. stops short of saying that he knew Hamilton would be a massive hit. There was certainly still the strong possibility that the show would be too "out there" in Odom's words. Still, even if that was the case, Odom says he saw the brilliance in the show and wanted to be a part of it. He would take the role of Aaron Burr when the show moved to Broadway and he'd win a Tony Award for Best Actor for the performance.
And Hamilton, would, of course, become a massive hit. And with the release of the filmed performance on Disney+, the show has now been seen by millions who would have never dreamed of being able to sit in a Broadway theater. It's given the show an entirely new life, which is especially important considering that Broadway is still shut down.
And Hamilton would mean even more to Leslie Odom Jr. personally. The actor's star has been on the rise ever since he took the role of Aron Burr. He was nominated for Golden Globes for his performance as both an actor and a singer/songwriter for his work on the film One Night in Miami and now he's nominated for a pair of Oscars for the same work.
Leslie Odom Jr. is a remarkable talent and that certainly wasn't a complete secret before Hamilton, and one hopes he would have become a star because of those talents even if Hamilton had never happened. Having said that, Odom will likely always be remembered for his role of Aaron Burr no matter what else happens in his career. The good news is he doesn't seem to mind that. He knows the show was something special and he's quite proud of being part of it.