It took more than 26 years, but theatregoers with The Phantom of the Opera tickets will finally get to see the show featuring its first black lead role on Broadway. Norm Lewis — who’s also known to audiences as Senator Edison Davis to fans of ABC’s hit show, “Scandal” — will star as the first black Phantom since the musical opened on Broadway on Jan. 26, 1988.
To put that in perspective, the show will have nearly 11,000 performances under its belt before history takes place on the famous stage on May 12. For his own part, Lewis took to Twitter to express his gratitude for the outpouring of love he received after being named to the role. “I’m overwhelmed,” Lewis told the Associated Press. “The idea of doing something that I’ve always wanted to do and it coming to fruition is amazing.”
With that said, here’s an inside look into the Tony-nominated actor who’s breaking barriers on Broadway.
Opening Doors & Removing Barriers
Born on June 2, 1963, in Eatonville, Fla., Lewis has dreamt of the day he could play the lead role. In an interview with The Daily Beast, he noted that earning the part resonated much deeper than him simply playing it, hoping that this momentous occasion sets a precedent for other people of color who want lead roles that don’t have a color associated with them. When asked whether he thought Broadway was racist, Lewis responded honestly.
“I wouldn’t say that about an entire industry,” he said. “I would say that there is a certain image shows are used to portraying, a certain image in their mind when they are creating a show. I don’t think there’s a blatant ‘We will not cast a black man in this role’ operating. But sometimes it takes a different creative mind to conceive or something else.”
According to Lewis, being a black man meant he couldn’t play roles like Willie Conklin in “Ragtime” or Huck Finn in “Big River.” However, where there is no explicit ethnicity or skin color associated to a character, Lewis said, “there do need to be more opportunities for Asian, Latino, and African-American actors. If there is an opportunity to cast them in roles, producers should give them the chance to show their wares.”
Lewis’s Recent Stardom
In addition to his role on Scandal, which has given him a new level of exposure because it’s on TV, Lewis has also starred in a new adaptation of “Porgy and Bess” recently. The Gershwin folk opera is famous for its beautiful and soaring music that merges arias (usually associated with opera) with blues, spirituals, and work songs. Although the show historically has faced hardships because of the worries it triggers about how it depicts African Americans in the original libretto, the reinterpretation helped it win a Tony in 2012 for Best Revival of a Musical.
Other Notable Works
In addition to “Scandal” and “Porgy and Bess,” Lewis has also had notable parts in other TV shows, plays, and movies. Some of these include “All My Children,” “Les Miserables in Concert: The 25th Anniversary,” and “Sex and the City 2.”
Lewis doubtlessly will revolutionize Broadway with his new starring role. If you want to grab tickets to see for yourself, Scorebig should be your first stop. The pricing is guaranteed to be below box office, and there are no fees or shipping costs. Not only will you watch Broadway history in the making, but you’ll be doing it with amazing tickets at reasonable prices.