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From choir teacher to touring with ‘Hamilton’

Nikisha Williams follows her dream to the stage

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
From choir teacher to touring with ‘Hamilton’
The “Hamilton” tour stops in Boston through March 12. PHOTO: Joan Marcus

Since its debut in 2015, “Hamilton” has rocked the theater world. The musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda tells the story of founding father Alexander Hamilton through a hip-hop, jazz, R&B and Broadway score, energetic and contemporary choreography, and a diverse cast. After a pandemic delay, “Hamilton” is finally making waves here in Boston, with a Broadway tour performance running through March 12 at the Citizens Bank Opera House.

Nikisha Williams plays Eliza Schuyler in the touring production of “Hamilton.” COURTESY PHOTO

When “Hamilton” first came on the scene, Nikisha Williams was teaching choir at a high school in Memphis, Tennessee. Her students went wild for the musical, and at their urging, Williams listened to the score and fell in love with it. After three years of encouraging her students to pursue their musical dreams, Williams realized she needed to take her own advice. The talented performer moved to New York and shortly had the opportunity to audition for the show her students loved so much.

“I had a deep love for ‘Hamilton’ way before I had the opportunity to audition,” says Williams. “It was really awesome to have a show like this that not only broke a lot of barriers in terms of representation, but also introduces you to people that you would not have known before, even with your history classes.” Since then, several of her students have seen her perform in “Hamilton,” a perfect illustration that dreams can come true.

Williams started her work with the “Hamilton” tour as an ensemble member covering for any of the Schuyler sisters, but she now exclusively plays Eliza Schuyler, Alexander Hamilton’s wife. Alexander may have the energetic rap battles and the wild bravado, but Eliza is the backbone of the musical. After Alexander was killed, Eliza lived 50 more years and spent that time working as an activist. She established the first children’s orphanage in New York, fought against slavery and memorialized her husband and his compatriots.

“It was really nice to listen to this and realize how much Eliza had done for our country and to now be able to portray that as an African American woman in America,” says Williams. “Not a lot of our founding fathers were thinking about those kinds of things, so it was really surprising but amazing to hear how much she was an activist.”

Though the show’s title is “Hamilton,” it doesn’t specify husband or wife, and Williams believes Alexander and Eliza share the musical’s title equally. Without Eliza preserving Alexander’s legacy, the show may never have existed. But “Hamilton” isn’t just about highlighting early American history — it’s about creating the grounds for a new, perhaps more inclusive history in our contemporary moment.

“I hope that people take in the diversity, because it’s so important that this story be told from the perspective of how America is now, and that all these minorities and all these people are still trying to better this country every day,” says Williams. “I think the lesson we can learn is that we need everybody to help make our country better.”

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