Emilie Kouatchou—who made history in October 2021 as the first Black actor to play the role of Christine Daaé in the New York production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera, subsequently taking over the role full-time January 26—recently spoke about her barrier-breaking casting on The Today Show.
Illinois native Kouatchou said she knew she "could sing the heck out of Christine." The interview also features casting associate Joseph Hayes, who was a casting intern in the room during Kouatchou's initial Phantom audition; and head electrician Alan Lampel, who has been with the hit musical for its entire record-breaking run. Watch the interview below:
Lucy St. Louis became the first Black actor to play the role of Christine in the West End when she reopened the London production of Phantom in July 2021.
Directed by the late Harold Prince, The Phantom of the Opera reopened October 22, 2021, following the pandemic shutdown. The complete Phantom orchestra—Broadway’s largest—also returned, under the continued musical supervision of David Caddick with the musical’s original orchestrations.
The Phantom of the Opera has music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics by Charles Hart (with additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe), and a book by Stilgoe and Lloyd Webber. The production also features musical staging and choreography by Gillian Lynne, scenic and costume design by Maria Björnson, lighting design by Andrew Bridge, and sound design by Martin Levan with Caddick as music director. Cameron Mackintosh and Lloyd Webber's The Really Useful Group serve as producers.
The Broadway staging of the London-originated show won seven 1988 Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Previews on Broadway began January 9, 1988, with an official opening January 26. The original Broadway cast featured Michael Crawford, Sarah Brightman, Judy Kaye, and the late Steve Barton.