Hamilton star Leslie Odom Jr. took home the Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for his portrayal of Alexander Hamilton’s longtime rival — and eventual killer — Aaron Burr.
“I will cherish this,” Odom said, thanking the show’s creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda, who was also nominated in the category. “God bless you. You’ve given us a new vision of what’s possible.”
With this win, Odom not only beats his costar and on-stage nemesis Miranda, but also Alex Brightman for School of Rock — The Musical, Danny Burstein for Fiddler on the Roof, and Zachary Levi for She Loves Me.
In addition to starring in the show, Odom’s Burr is also the frequent narrator of Hamilton’s life (a recurring lyric, “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” speaks to this interesting choice). But instead of resigning Burr solely to the villain’s role, Odom brings immense depth and sympathy to the character, so the audience understands why Burr makes the choices he does in life — and especially why he grows to resent his one-time friend, Hamilton.
Odom famously (to Hamilton aficionados, at least) begged NBC to release him from his contract on the television program State of Affairs so that he could take part in the Hamilton Off Broadway run at the Public Theater in 2015. Given the show’s blockbuster success, both in the musical theater world and in the realm of mainstream pop culture, it’s safe to say Odom made the right decision.
This is the first Tony Award for Odom. Hamilton scored a record 16 nominations ahead this year’s Tony Awards.