Rider alumna cast in 'Hamilton' tour
As a cast member of the hit musical Hamilton, Milika Griffiths ’17 can sing, dance and rap at a pace that could rival Busta Rhymes. Griffiths recently joined the musical's San Francisco tour as an ensemble member and swing for four of the show's leading female roles — Angelica Schuyler, Eliza Hamilton, Peggy Schuyler and Maria Reynolds.
As a swing, she must be ready to jump into one of these roles at any time seamlessly. The show's dense lyrics, powerful vocals and intricate choreography provided a welcome challenge for Griffiths.
"I've never been a swing before so it's definitely a new adventure, but I'm honored," she says. "It's the most challenging character work I've done as an actor."
Hamilton explores the life and death of Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, whose impact on American history continues to be felt in modern times. Griffiths' characters range from Hamilton's devoted wife, his longtime confidant, his sister-in-law and his mistress.
"It's very interesting to discover the depth of all of them," Griffiths says. "They each have such great strengths that they bring to the story. As an actor, I'm able to pull those characteristics from me for all of the women."
Griffiths recently made her debut as Angelica, luckily with enough notice that her mom was able to fly out and see her perform.
"I've been performing since I was a teenager, but I was so nervous that first night and full of adrenaline," she says. "I started to ease into the second act, but nothing beats the thrill of being on that stage, seeing the reaction of the audience and working with all these talented people."
On paper, the juxtaposition of American history, hip-hop and musical theatre may not sound like a great idea, but Hamilton has received nearly universal critical acclaim. Griffiths believes the show is so successful because of the existential question it continually asks audiences, "Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?"
"The show is beyond telling the story of a man who did all these important things," Griffiths says. "It's about what mark do you want to leave on the world? The idea of thinking about what you want your footprint to be when you leave the world resonates with any person, of any age, of any color."
Currently stationed in San Francisco until May, the tour will take Griffiths to a number of West Coast cities in the fall. This is Griffiths' third national tour. She booked her first while she was still a student at Rider. During her senior year, she joined the national tour of Ragtime as an ensemble member. As a musical theatre major, Griffiths gained other valuable experience while appearing in five main stage Rider productions, including three musicals, a play and a cabaret. After Rider, she played Nettie in the national tour of The Color Purple and performed on Disney Cruises in a number of shows including Beauty and the Beast.
Though this was her second time auditioning for Hamilton, Griffiths is glad she persevered after her first six-week audition didn't lead to a part.
"I got so close the first time so I was unsure if I wanted to do it again," she says. This time, after her final round of auditions and workshops with the show's director and composer, she arrived home to a phone call from her agent asking her if she wanted to be in Hamilton.
"It's insane and I'm just so honored to be a part of this show," she says.