With the much-anticipated return of touring Broadway shows, we caught up with actress Stephanie Umoh, who is lighting up the stage with the traveling mega Broadway hit, Hamilton.
Texas fans can catch Umoh in Hamilton’s Dallas, showing until Dec. 5. Following Music Hall at Fair Park, Umoh heads to Hamilton’s opening night in Austin on Dec. 7. For Austin’s newly renovated Bass Concert Hall, this will be the first time for the Broadway in Austin stage to be lit up…in exactly 21 months.
Umoh, a native Texan, talks about the Hamilton tour that will also make stops in Houston, San Antonio and Fort Worth. This, just two years after the musical, based on Ron Chernow’s biography of American founding father Alexander Hamilton, set record-level sales during its first run through Texas theatres. Using hip hop, R&B and rap, the musical combines vintage Broadway with a modern mix to look at America’s past.
Broadway is back, and we are thrilled! How does it feel to be back on stage?
One word: Joy! Before the pandemic, I never imagined there could be a world without theater. Then, the inevitable happened and our industry shut down.
To me, theater is about connection and community, but when you are living through a pandemic, those two things are the first to be ripped away. It suddenly becomes about isolation and survival. But theater will always find a way.
I find that I have a new sense of admiration and appreciation for the art form and all it has provided me. It has also become daily practice for me to count my blessings. I came out of the shut-down with a job. A good job. I get to travel the country telling this story, the privilege of that is not lost on me. Many folks in our industry still do not have work or health insurance. So many theater workers lost their homes and often didn’t know how they were going to pay for groceries! The tragedy of it all is painful and there is still a lot of fear in us all.
You play Angelica Schuyler, a woman known for confidence and standing up for what she believes in. What is your favorite part of the role?
What I love about Angelica is that everything she does is with great intention. She is smart and calculated. I think she has fought to find a way to be influential in a time when women weren’t allowed to be “in the room”. We begin to see the early signs of feminism in her actions. I think what most people like most about her is her fierce loyalty to family. Her loyalty to her sister, Eliza, is what eventually leads her to sacrifice her own desires for the sake of Eliza’s happiness. There is great tragedy in her decision, and I think there are people out there that find her story relatable. Pay close attention to the Helpless/Satisfied section of Act One; it moves quickly but if you listen to the words and the story, you’ll get an idea of what I mean.
Your career includes roles in Sister Act on Broadway, Les Mis, Jesus Christ Superstar…and more! And TV’s House of Cards, Blue Bloods, and NY 22. What’s been your favorite role?
My absolute favorite role was “Sarah” in the 2009 Broadway revival of Ragtime. It was a dream role of mine! I was young and scared, and I knew nothing, but there was something special about not knowing anything yet. I just “did” it. I was also surrounded by the most loving and supportive group of artists and creatives; it really was a charmed experience! I made life-long friends, one of whom is one of my closest friends. I was very lucky.
You received the “Outstanding Broadway Debut” award in 2010. Growing up in Lewisville, what made you want to go into theatre?
I was involved with theater at Lewisville High School as an extracurricular activity, I never imagined I would pursue it professionally. I thought I would study science and become a doctor or something, so I put my attention towards that. Slowly, my grades began to suffer because I would prioritize learning a monologue or a song over my schoolwork. [One day], my teacher pulled me aside with tears in her eyes and said, “You have to pursue this.” At that point in my life, no one had ever told me I was good at something. I’m not sure I would be where I am today without that teacher’s support. I have never forgotten that moment.
How has your journey been toward so many successes?
My journey in acting has had many highs and many lows. This is a tough business! You spend most of your time learning (and relearning) how to live with rejection. My biggest lesson has been to not let the business consume me. Acting is something I DO, it’s not who I am. When I’m not working, I like to involve myself with activities that satisfy my creativity but have nothing to do with performing.
The terrifying thing about this business is that the future is unknown. But that’s also so exciting! I have so many adventures ahead of me, a lot more stories to tell and characters to play! I’d like to think I’m only toward the beginning of my journey and I am definitely looking forward to what lies ahead.
As a native Texan, is there anything you are looking forward to about being in Texas for upcoming shows?
I am mostly excited to see my family and old school friends! I get to go home to my mother and spend time with her. That means a lot to me. She still lives in the house I grew up in! This is going to sound silly, but I’m also looking forward to driving down IH-35 on a sunny day (with no traffic!) and passing all the old familiar buildings and landmarks. A lot of my cast has never been to Texas, and I cannot wait to share with them some of the best BBQ in the country and, of course, Tex-Mex. I gotta take them to the rodeo! I am looking forward to sharing this show and this story with the great State of Texas!
Catch Umoh and the entire Hamilton cast in Musical Hall at Fair Park in Dallas, now through Dec. 5, along with the following additional Texas tour dates:
Tickets for Hamilton typically range from $49 to $179 and can be purchased online. Due to the popularity of the show, organizers urge people to buy directly from the concert halls to avoid fraudulent activity. Lottery details will also be announced for each upcoming performance.
Cover photo courtesy Joan Marcus
Britni Rachal lives in Austin, Texas. She is a freelance journalist, full-time marketer, and a Realtor®. In addition to writing, Rachal enjoys traveling, event planning, fashion, fitness and serving the Austin community.