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“It’s a profound experience to take the show around the county at this moment in time,” Hamilton star Stephanie Umoh told The BWSTimes over the phone as she prepared for rehearsal. “It’s a profound thing to tell this story right now.”
One of the most successful plays in history, Hamilton chronicles the life of Alexander Hamilton, a statesman grew up on the tiny Caribbean island of Nevis. Orphaned as a child, he immigrated to the English colonies and settled in New York City.
The play follows the rise of “an orphaned immigrant” who grew to become the first Treasury Secretary of the United States and one of the most influential people in the founding of the country.
The play, written by Lin Manuel Miranda, intentionally centers Black and brown actors in the roles of this nation’s founders.
Hamilton star says role is an exciting opportunity to try and tell the full story of Angelica Schuyler
As Hamilton returns to Tulsa in the coming weeks, Umoh is excited to display what she calls the most “miraculous challenge” of her career.
Stephanie Umoh plays Angelica Schuyler, the wealthy daughter of US Army General Phillip Schuyler. Angelica plays a pivotal role in the storyline, personifying a ruthless tension between love and loyalty. Many details of her life, however, are absent in the play. For Umoh, the challenge of making Angelica’s story whole is both powerful and thrilling.
“We don’t get to see her full story played out,” Umoh says. “Even when Angelica isn’t on stage, her story is still unfolding elsewhere. Time has passed and something has happened, something has changed. I love filling in the blanks for the audience and creating a story of what you don’t see.”
For Umoh, her greatest chance to show the nuance and complexity of Angelica is during the four minutes of the song ‘Satisfied’. In one of the most spellbinding moments of the play, the actors dance across a rotating floor to ‘rewind’ a scene. It’s there, in a powerful soliloquy, that Angelica grapples with her role in society, her love for a man and her loyalty to her sister – all at once.
“You get to see what an incredible and selfless person she is,” Umoh said. “She gives up someone she’s fallen in love with for her sister – who she’s unfailingly loyal to.”
Umoh’s starring role in Hamilton is one of the most challenging and rewarding of her career
For Umoh, portraying Angelica in Hamilton is a full-circle moment. She was touring the country in the play Into the Woods when she saw her friends perform Hamilton during a stop in San Francisco. Hearing Umoh was in town, Hamilton’s producers reached out to schedule an audition with her for the 2023 North America tour.
That chance overlap launched Umoh into what she describes as one of the most inspiring and challenging roles of her career.
“To the audience, we make it look easy, because we’re supposed to,” Umoh joked. “Really, as soon as the show starts, you’re on a fast moving train. Sometimes, when you’re tired, the job becomes staying on the train and not falling off,” she said, laughing.
That’s true figuratively, as the actors fly through one powerful dance number after another, and literally, because, again, the floor is moving beneath their feet.
Despite the challenges, Umoh returns to the deep importance of play – especially now.
Hamilton tour ‘pivotal’ in showing an accurate representation of America today
The 2023 North American tour makes its way through states across the South and Midwest. Like many places where the tour stops, Oklahoma is the site of legislative and political efforts to hide the depth of American history. Bills passed in recent years seek to limit the ability of students to learn the full story of who we are as a nation and how we came to be. To Umoh, Hamilton is an opportunity to tell the true story.
“With cuts being made in public education, reducing what we’re teaching children about what actually happened in our history, for me, it’s a way of saying: ‘hey, we’re here too’,” Umoh told The BWSTimes.
“People who looked like me were pivotal in this country’s history. We are very much a part of this history and we are very much allowed to tell this history as well.”
“Being able to tell this story makes me feel more patriotic,” she said. “This [cast] is an actual representation of what this country looks like.”
Umoh says she hopes young people will have the chance to come see the play and “see themselves in us on this stage.”
“I hope it inspires young people to pursue a career in the arts, in any form,” she continued. “We need young peoples’ perspectives to come and influence change.”
Star encourages Tulsans to come see the play in March
Umoh says she hopes Tulsans will come see the play, and find unity and healing in its message.
“Theater so important because it holds up a mirror to society,” Umoh said. “It allows people to see themselves and it creates empathy and self realizations. It’s so healing, and hope that healing is something that we are providing.”
“If you have the opportunity to come see the show, please come,” she continued. “Come with an open heart and an open mind. Come be inspired.”
Hamilton will perform at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center from March 7th – March 19th. Tickets are available on the PAC website.