Black women are bringing their excellence to Broadway and making history in the process. Earlier this month, actress Brittney Johnson graced the stage at The Gershwin Theater in New York, becoming the first Black woman to take on the role of Glinda in the musical Wicked. Another actress shining in the theatre world is Emilie Kouatchou, who recently became the first Black woman to portray Christine Daae in Phantom of the Opera, NBC reported.
The Tony award-winning play—which made its debut in 1988—is Broadway’s longest-running production. Based on a horror novel penned by Gaston Leroux 112 years ago, the story chronicles a masked figure who haunts the Paris Opera House and ends up falling in love with a soprano named Christine. Kouatchou, who hails from Chicago, was selected as an alternate for Christine’s character in October 2021. She was later chosen to take on the role full-time and debuted on January 26.
The 25-year-old says she hopes her historic milestone inspires people to follow their dreams. “Even when I did my first show as the full-time Christine, I remember doing ‘Think of Me.’ I was really trying to center myself because I was feeling so emotional because I was thinking about all the women who have come before me who made it possible for me to be in this spot,” she told the news outlet. “People I look up to in the industry. Just feeling the weight, but also like I was covered by something bigger than myself. It’s so important that audiences see someone who looks like me playing Christine.”
Both Johnson and Kouatchou stand on the shoulders of trailblazers who came before them, including luminaries like Bert Williams, who was the first Black person to perform on Broadway and Juanita Hall, who became the first African American to win a Tony Award.