Arts & Culture News

Stephanie Umoh Makes a Stop at Home as a Star in Hamilton

Growing up as a theater kid in Lewisville, Stephanie Umoh had always dreamed of performing at Fair Park.

Umoh, who plays Angelica Schuyler in the touring production of Hamilton, the Tony Award-winning musical about the Founding Father, finally got her chance. She and the rest of the cast wrap up their Dallas stop on Sunday, Dec. 5, but before she left town, we asked her all about Hamilton, rapping during “Satisfied,” and what she thinks about Alexander Hamilton and Angelica’s rumored love affair.

What has it been like performing in your hometown?
I have been trying to take a show to this area for many years and it’s just not worked out, so it’s finally happening and with this epic, gorgeous piece, and it’s just an absolute honor to tell this story in this state to have my loved ones come, to have old friends from high school come and see the show, it’s just extremely special so they can see my work but also see this amazing show.

What was your knowledge of Alexander Hamilton the person and Hamilton the show before you booked this role?
I’m going to be honest with you, I didn’t know a thing about Alexander Hamilton. I only knew something about federal banks and some other small facts about him from school. But I had no idea how complex his life was and how much of an influence he was on our country and some of the same policies and federal banking methods that we use today came from Alexander Hamilton, which is just mind blowing for me to think about. And I actually didn’t know much about the show either, I’m going to be honest with you. I had been very busy working on other shows when Hamilton came out. I was always thinking to myself, I’ll get to it. And I never got to it.

What is your favorite song to perform during the show?

“Take A Break.”

Ah! I love that song.

Yeah, I really love it because it feels like a traditional musical in that scene. This moment just slows down; we get to see the characters in a scene relating to each other. It’s just really fun to perform and really fun to sing.

Which song is the most challenging?
There are two numbers that are very challenging: “Schuyler Sisters” and “Satisfied.” The reason why “Schuyler Sisters” is so challenging is because the sisters and myself are thrown out of the cannon and we just bolt on stage and the number goes by so quickly that it’s hard to breathe because we’re in corsets and it’s extremely energetic. We are at 100 as soon as we walk on stage. It’s a little difficult to get to 100 on days that you’re tired, but you’re right out of the gate.

“Satisfied” is challenging because it’s Angelica the entire song. There are no breaks. It’s just three and a half minutes of extreme focus and high energy on my part.

What about “It’s Quiet Uptown?” Does that ever get emotional?

Absolutely, especially when we first returned from the pandemic. The words had a different meaning for me, like “pushing away what we can never understand.” Those lyrics — we can relate to those in some way. We can relate to tragedy, we can relate to death, we can relate to mourning loss and having to forgive people that we love. And I think that humanity really showed its true colors the past year and a half and when I perform that song, I sometimes have to shut down because I can’t start crying.

What do you think of Hamilton and Angelica’s relationship? I know the musical kind of heightens it maybe more than what it actually was, but do you ever think about it? Do you think it was innocent?

I do think it was innocent. I think they were absolutely each other’s match intellectually and they always had this repartee going on and she could hold court, she could hold a room, she was just so great at communicating, and she’s funny and attractive. I think everybody was attracted to her. I do believe it was extremely innocent. I don’t think she would do that to Eliza, but that’s my opinion. I guess we don’t really know what went on. And Eliza was aware of it as well and just kind of laughed it off.

What does it mean to be a woman of color playing a white woman?

It’s complicated. In my investigation of Angelica, I did learn that she was an advocate for slavery.

(Gasp.) I didn’t know that.

Yeah. I’ve had to sort of figure out how I can celebrate this woman who was an advocate for slavery. We’re in a fictional world. And yes, we’re in history and portraying historical figures, but we’re also taking creative freedom with it, so I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand. I don’t have to agree with the characters I play. I’ve come to peace with that. In the portrayal of these characters by people of color, it’s saying we were here at this time in history as well. We existed. We may not have been in the storybooks. We may not have been accounted for, but we were here, so it’s also our history. Oftentimes, we were the ones building this country on our backs. So for me, that is what I try to focus on.

Knowing Angelica was an advocate for slavery but the musical never touches on that, do you think that this musical glorifies the Founding Fathers?
I don’t think it does. I think actually what this show is doing is showing that these people that our country glorifies actually had darkness to them. They actually were human. They made mistakes while they were also building this country. For example, we watch a lot of the mistakes Hamilton makes right on stage, and I don’t think in any way that is in celebration of him. They were just human beings existing in their era.

See Hamilton at Music Hall at Fair Park (909 First Ave.) through Dec. 5.