DEMO Spot On
The "Hamilton" actress is young, scrappy, and hungry for the stage.
Another day, another audition. That was the reaction Michael George ’17 had when she auditioned for the smash-hit musical Hamilton for the third time. “I approach every audition as a chance to take a free class, as opposed to expecting anything,” says George. “Sometimes you just have to leave it up to the universe.”
The universe, as it turns out, had big plans for the 22-year-old actress. George was cast as a swing, or understudy, for the Chicago production of the musical Hamilton, which opened in 2016 at the 1,800-seat CIBC Theatre. A year later, she is still processing her success of earning a spot in this pop culture phenomenon that remixes the life and times of Alexander Hamilton with a racially diverse cast and hip-hop score.
“It’s a total dream come true,” she says. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life, but in the best way.”
George serves as a swing for the five female cast members of the ensemble. While her onstage appearances vary from zero to eight times a week, there is always the chance that she must step in during the middle of a performance. As George puts it, swings are some of the most important members in a show, especially when there is an injury or illness.
“You never say, ‘I’m going to be a swing!’ It’s just something that you are not thinking of when you’re training or in school,” she says. “But it’s definitely been a learning experience. Swings can be the saving grace of the show.”
While studying Musical Theatre at Columbia, George appeared in summer stock productions of the Muny Theater in St. Louis, Missouri and was cast in Drury Lane Theatre’s productions of Saturday Night Fever and Chicago shortly after she graduated in 2017.
“I love musical theatre because I’m an actor and a dancer at heart,” she says. “Music and song, voice and movement, visuals and sound—it’s like a feeling that you can’t describe. And I love that combination of storytelling. Even if it’s corny sometimes.”
As a swing for Hamilton, George may not appear on stage every night, but she stays busy. Whether she is making flash cards to remember her cues, or watching the performance on her laptop, George knows that it is her responsibility to be prepared. Finding a system to help her rehearse multiple roles was crucial to being a stage-ready swing.
“It takes time and it’s not an easy job,” she says. “Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get it right away, and don’t quit. It’s a tough job. Be confident.”
Being in Hamilton has inspired George not only as an actress, but also as an American citizen.
“The show is awesome because it reminds us that we need to stand up and fight for what we believe in, like [Alexander] Hamilton. It reminds me to vote, go to rallies, and donate to charities. Every day when I come to the theater, I’m like, ‘Alright Michael George, what are you going to do?’ I got to do something,” she says. “I’m hoping Hamilton inspires people to realize that they can do anything they want to do. That change is coming.”