For thousands of people returning to experience the power and mystery of “The Phantom of the Opera” — which has been thrilling audiences for more than 30 years on Broadway got an extra boost of star power when Emilie Kouatchou stepped into the history books as the first African American woman to step into the role of Christine Daaé in “The Phantom of the Opera.” ( https://bit.ly/3D2vUCm )
“The Phantom of the Opera” is based on Gaston Leroux’s horror novel and the powerful musical tells the story of the Phantom, who haunts the stage of the Paris Opera and falls in love with a beautiful young soprano — Christine Daaé.
The Broadway staging of the London-originated show won seven Tony Awards, including Best Musical in 1988.
Kouatchou’s performance as Christine Daaé didn’t disappoint the die-heart Phantom fans and for those that were first stepping into that world, for the very first time, were easily seduced by her phenomenal
stage presence (she’s a star) and vocal prowess. And because of the vocal demands needed to bring the character to life, Kouatchou shares the role with actress Meghan Picerno. Kouatchou plays Christine three times per week at certain performances.
Although her role in “Phantom of the Opera” marks Kouatchou’s Broadway debut she’s no stranger to the stage. Her other credits include Unknown Soldier (Playwrights Horizons); Oklahoma! (Broadway at Music Circus, Sacramento, CA); Merrily We Roll Along, Passing Strange, Me and My Girl, Violet, A Man of No Importance (The University of Michigan); Sweeney Todd (Connecticut Repertory Theater). Graduate University of Michigan’s Musical Theatre program. All Black Lives Matter.
The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical reopened at the Majestic Theatre (October 22) after a painful, 19-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Directed by the late Harold Prince, the musical first opened on January 26, 1988, making it the longest-running Broadway production in history.
Here is what Emilie Kouatchou’s steps into history at the first African American woman to play Christine Daaé on Broadway in “The Phantom of the Opera about stepping into the Broadway history books as the first African American woman to play Christine Daaé on Broadway in “The Phantom of the Opera.”
QUESTION: What’s it like to be a part of Broadway history? You are riveting in the role of Christine Daaé. I could not stop looking at you!
EMILIE KOUATCHOU: Thank you. Oh my gosh, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. You should be watching the play.
Q: Lady, you are the play. Full stop. During intermission I had people behind and in front of me, that had seen “The Phantom of the Opera” many, many times and they all gave you a rave review.
EK: Thank you. There are a lot of people that return to see this show so much. It’s really special for them to see different people take over the role. Real fans of the PH.
Q: When was the first time that you saw “The Phantom of the Opera”?
EK: The first time I saw this play, I was in high school. It was a drama club school trip. We picked two shows: “The Phantom of the Opera” and “Matilda.” I saw PH first. So technically it was the first show that I saw on Broadway.
Q: Well, that’s interesting twist of fate. What surprised you about this role?
EK: How physical this show is especially for Christine. She’s onstage for most of the show. There are only two five minute breaks that I have in the show, other than intermission, to rest. It’s crazy and that surprised me.
Q: What comforted you about the role?
EK: Well, this is my first Broadway show and I was nervous. This is a big role to be stepping into for a first show. So, I was comforted about how easily the music fits into my voice. That’s the one thing in the show, for me, that I don’t have to worry about. I know how my voice is going to sound. I was comforted by that and surprised by it as well. She sings the whole time and it feels really good that I can sustain that.
Q: I understand how that can be comforting. How does it feel as a woman of color being the first to step into the role of Christine Daaé?
EK: Being a woman of color, I feel that expectations are high because going into it, I knew that I had to put in a lot of work to be able to prove myself. The majority of the audience is white and so they are coming to see the show where they have seen a white Christine [Daaé]. So in my mind [I said to myself] I have to be the best damn Christine [Daaé] that I can freakin be.
Q: And that’s exactly what you did, Emilie Kouatchou.