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25 February 2022, 11:25 | Updated: 25 February 2022, 16:46
After breaking down barriers to become Broadway’s first Black Christine, Emilie Kouatchou has taken up the role full time.
Chicago-born actor Emilie Kouatchou has made history as the first Black actor to play Christine Daaé in The Phantom of the Opera, Broadway’s longest-running musical.
After making her ground-breaking debut last year as an understudy, Emilie Kouatchou took up the title role full time on 26 January at New York City’s Majestic Theater.
The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical landed in Manhattan’s theatre district in 1988, two years after its original staging in London, and has become one of Broadway’s most beloved offerings.
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In an interview on the Today show, Chicago-born Kouatchou said it was the first play she ever saw on Broadway, but it had never crossed her mind that she could play Christine.
“I think my mindset was still that this role was not for me, which is just a sad reality. And it took a lot of unlearning just to be able to say, ‘No, I can do this.’”
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Speaking about her first performance as Christine, the 25-year-old actor said: “I remember feeling a lot of support from the audience. They cheered when I first came on stage.”
Kouatchou also recalled the moment she got to sing with the orchestra for the first time. “I got to sing ‘Think of Me’ […] and I just remember getting so choked up I couldn’t finish the song.”
Before making Broadway history, Kouatchou graduated from the University of Michigan in 2019, and unsuccessfully auditioned for the Lloyd Webber musical twice before landing a role as the understudy in October 2021.
She added: “I grew up seeing people like Audra McDonald… on stage being excellent. If they hadn’t done what they had done, I probably wouldn’t be here.
“There have been so many different Black women that could have played Christine,” Kouatchou said. “We’re in a period of intense change in this industry, and I’m just happy that I could be a part of that change.”