Emilie Kouatchou The First Black Lead In Phantom of The Opera
Broadway actress Emilie Kouatchou has just made history as the first Black performer to ever play a lead role in the “Phantom of the Opera.” The Chicago-native will play the lead role of Christine Daae.
Kouatchou originally made history back in October 2021 by becoming the first Black actor to play the role’s alternate.
It’s long overdue for the Phantom of the Opera show that has celebrated 34 years on Broadway. The actress recently told People Magazine that she is looking forward to the day when casting Black artists as firsts are no longer monumental.
“It frustrates me that it took this long, it does,” she said. “I’m honored that it’s me, and I’m honored that I’m making history, but I’m really excited for when it’s not even a question, it’s not even a thing, the first Black Christine.”
She also discussed the pressures she felt leading up to her first performance. She felt
like she wasn’t good enough for the role.
“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…It took this long for any Black woman to play Christine, but there have been so many talented Black women who could have.”
Broadway is a popular street in Manhattan. It has been associated with American theatrical activity since 1735 when the first theatre reportedly opened on the street.
Throughout the centuries, however, the theater scene has struggled with representation.
A recent report from The Asian American Performers Action Coalition how that white people dominate Broadway on and behind the scenes.
During the 2017/2018 Broadway season, 20% of the shows on and off-Broadway in New York City were created by people of colour. Yet nearly two-thirds of the roles were filled by white actors. 94% of the directors were white.
The study found that 23% of roles overall at New York City theaters went to Black actors. Thats worthy of a bigger discussion and a transition for change.