As stages begin to reopen around the globe, Playbill is reaching out to artists to see how they are physically and creatively responding to a changed world.
The series continues with Lucy St. Louis, who is currently starring as Christine Daaé in the London production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre. St. Louis, who is the first Black actor to ever play that role in the West End, also portrayed Diana Ross in the London production of Motown the Musical. Her other West End credits include Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and The Book of Mormon. St. Louis was also seen in Ragtime at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre and Man of La Mancha at the London Coliseum.
St. Louis says she believes Lloyd Webber's score is "one of the best ever written," adding that the musical carries audiences "on a thrilling journey full of conflicting emotions. It’s a feast for your senses, keeping you on the edge of your seat and truly pulling at your heartstrings by the end." Read more from the history-making artist below.
What is your typical day like now?
Now that I have immersed into the incredible world of Phantom, my routine is currently all centered around preparation for the show or shows that day. I love to keep fit, I eat healthily and always make sure I drink lots and lots of water! I do a ballet barre with the corps de ballet everyday before warming up for the show physically and vocally with the rest of the company. I make sure I get to say “hi” and check in on everyone in the entire company before curtain goes up. Then there’s the small matter of the show! Afterwards, I cool down vocally and physically, then try to get as much rest as possible before doing it all over again.
Tell me about the audition process for this role.
This journey has been one of exploration, growth, commitment, and dreams. Most importantly, I learned to never give up despite not knowing if there was ever going to be a place for me in such iconic shows and monumental roles. The audition process for this character has definitely been the biggest challenge in my career to date—I pushed myself vocally, physically, and emotionally in so many ways. Auditioning for any job can be such a roller coaster of emotions, and every actor knows the struggle of rejection. However, I find discovering a pathway that allows you to find the positive in all situations, to continue the fight, to keep going, and strive forward is key. I’m a true believer of things happening for a reason!
Then one day, when I truly least expected it, I received a phone call to say that Andrew Lloyd Webber would like a private meeting after he heard of one of my auditions. It was like a huge ray of light had beamed deep into my soul, giving me a renewed sense of hope, and a huge rush of inner strength to go for it one last time. I was not going to walk away without leaving every inch of me, of my heart and of my voice in that room! The rest is history.
What does it mean to you to be the first Black actor to ever play Christine either in the West End or on Broadway?
To be a woman of color leading a show of this magnitude, portraying a woman who is strong, beautiful, and desired is an image that I wish my younger self could have seen more of on stage. It is a life-changing moment that is so much bigger than me. I have been blessed with an opportunity that I pray inspires hope, positivity, inspiration, and inclusion for the current and future generations.
Representation is so, so important, not just in the arts but in life itself. As the West End and Broadway are the beating heartbeats of musical theatre, it’s crucial that we can and are leading the way of change. I am so proud to be a part of that change! We live in a world full of beautiful and wonderful ethnicities, and we should visually see that in all walks of life, celebrate it in its full glory in order to show current and future generations that the possibilities are endless.
How do you feel about returning to live performance?
I feel very blessed that I get to do what I love every night! It is truly the most amazing feeling ever returning back to theatre life and performing on stage again every night. Theatre feeds our souls, it’s the gateway to such escapism and brings so much joy to us as performers and to our audiences. To be able to do that every night is a privilege I hold with a very grateful heart.
What moments or events stand out in your mind during the past year and a half of the pandemic?
Several moments stand out for me during the time whilst theatre doors were closed during the pandemic. Black Lives Matter and all it stands for, the precious time I was able to spend with loved ones, the whole nation giving a weekly round of applause for the NHS [National Health Service], and the opportunity to take a moment to breathe and reflect on all I was grateful for.
Was there anything you learned about yourself during this time that you didn't already know?
I have learnt that I am stronger, braver, and more resilient than I ever thought. Through all the struggles, I have been able to find the pockets of light and rays of hope that have given me the courage to keep pushing through. If you believe in yourself enough, you can get through anything!
During this time of reflection and re-education regarding BIPOC artists and artistry, particularly in the theatre, what do you want people (those in power, fellow actors, audiences) to be aware of? What do you want them to consider further?
Making one bold casting decision is only the beginning of making change. I would implore everyone to keep educating themselves in all walks of life and in all aspects of theatre—learning never stops. Every department within theatre should have visual representation of the world and industry we live/work in—that inclusion is so important, and I know first hand that visually seeing yourself in positions within our industry creates a workplace that feels safe, respected, and heard for all. I pray our industry continues to strive forward inclusively, open their eyes and expand their minds to the unending possibilities that the exceptionally talented BIPOC artistes bring to our incredible industry. Without this open-mindedness, trust and belief, I would not be living out my dreams right now.