The Philly Pops is celebrating its 40th anniversary by bringing in serious star power — Leslie Odom Jr. of Hamilton fame — to open its 2018-19 season in the fall.
Odom, who was raised in East Oak Lane, famously played Aaron Burr in the original cast of Hamilton, for which he received a Tony Award and a Grammy in 2016. More recently, he sang "America the Beautiful" at Super Bowl LII.
Pops music director Michael Krajewski said he'd had Odom in his sights since Hamilton. "I eventually heard that he was going around and singing with orchestras, and I thought to myself, 'If he's going to be singing with an orchestra in Philadelphia, it has to be the Pops. When we invited him, he was thrilled to be coming back to perform." He'll open the Pops season Sept. 28.
Krajewski said Odom typically does one-night engagements but will perform with the Pops on three consecutive dates while he's here. He'll do songs from his Broadway roles, including an all-strings version of "Without You" from Rent, as well as a tribute to Nat King Cole.
In November, guest singer Storm Large will bring to the Pops stage her edgy interpretations of popular love songs, including "Somebody to Love" and "Forever Young."
"We really love bringing people in who have a sense of humor," Krajewski said during a news conference Wednesday announcing the 2018-19 season. "Large engages with the audience and takes love songs to a new dimension."
Next February, the Pops will bring back Stuart Chafetz to conduct Pops Rocks: The '80s, featuring music by Michael Jackson, George Michael, Blondie, Cyndi Lauper, Cher, and more. The performance will also include tributes to Philadelphia artists, including the Hooters.
"We're all over the musical map with our selections," Krajewski said. "One of the things the Pops do best is play music you don't expect to hear orchestras to play. The audience is going to get a kick out of coming to a concert hall and hearing Cyndi Lauper, and our musicians have versatility to play it convincingly so it doesn't sound hokey."
Also on the 2018-19 schedule are a program of big band jazz (Jan. 18-20), a Harlem Renaissance-themed show (March 1-3, 2019), a program of Cole Porter Broadway hits (April 12-14, 2019), and a salute to American Bandstand (May 3-5, 2019). Todd Ellison will conduct the 2018 Christmas Pops shows Dec. 1-22.