You Go Gurl! First Black Actress to Play Lead in ‘Phantom of the Opera’

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Emilie Kouatchou portrays Christine in a performance of "The Phantom of the Opera" in New York. Kouatchou is the first Black woman to play the role in the show’s 33-year history. (Matthew Murphy via AP)

Life has a way of coming around full-circle. That’s just what happened with Emilie Kouatchou, a Chicago native actress and singer. At a young age, The Phantom of the Opera was one of the first productions Emilie had seen. She is now the first black actress to play the lead role of Christine Daaé on Broadway.

The Phantom of the Opera is based on a 1910 novel written by French novelist, Gaston Leroux. The story revolves around a masked composer living under the Paris Opera House who becomes obsessed with a beautiful soprano. The production, composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, had its first appearance at London’s West End Theater in 1986. With its run, the leading lady Christine has been played by mostly white women until recently.

In an interview with Shenielle Jones on the Today Show, Emilie talks her casting and how she had to unlearn what she knew in order to build her confidence in playing the part. “I think my mindset was still that this role was not for me, which is just a sad reality. And it took a lot of unlearning just to be able to say ‘No I can do this.’ I knew I could sing the heck out of Christine.” In 2022, we get to witness a change in casting and look forward to seeing Emilie Kouatchou continue to shine on Broadway.