“The Phantom of the Opera,” Broadway’s longest-running musical made history by casting Emilie Kouatchou as Christine Daaé, making her the first Black actor ever to play the lead role, the Huffington Post reports.
Last fall, Kouatchou joined the cast of the acclaimed musical as an alternate for actor Meghan Picerno. Beginning this week, she’ll be a full-time member of the cast along with Ben Crawford as the Phantom and John Riddle as Raoul de Chagny.
Based on Gaston Leroux’s classic novel, “The Phantom of the Opera” premiered on Broadway on Jan. 26, 1988, and the original production won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
In an interview with People last month, Kouatchou said she considered a career change when the COVID-19 pandemic closed Broadway theaters and other venues for a year and a half. She also explained her frustration with the producers of “Phantom of the Opera” and Broadway in general for taking so long to cast Black women in the lead roles.
“I just think that Black women, especially in theater, have to be—and it shouldn’t be this way—10 times better and work 10 times harder,” she said. “It took this long for any Black woman to play Christine, but there have been so many talented Black women who could have.”
For years, Broadway has faced criticism for its lack of diversity in offering opportunities to people of color on-and- offstage. Last August, the powerbrokers of Broadway signed a pact "pledging to strengthen the industry’s diversity practices."
The news of Kouatchou’s historic casting comes a month after it was announced that Brittney Johnson would be the first Black actor to play the role of Glinda in “Wicked.”