There has never been a black thespian on Broadway playing the role of the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s classic musical Phantom of the Opera. Until now. Actor Norm Lewis, a Black Tony Award nominee, is now the lead of the longest running plays in theater history.
Although he’s been a longtime Broadway actor, most folks know Lewis as Senator Edison Davis, a early love interest of Olivia Pope’s on Scandal. Lewis is coming off a triumphant run in Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, earning a Tony nod for Best Actor.
Phantom of the Opera hit the New York stage in 1988 and has since casted nine Phantoms. The production has been visited by over 130 million people in 27 countries and has grossed over $5.6 billion worldwide. Lewis is not the first Black actor in the role – Robert Guillaume played The Phantom at the Ahmanson Theater in Los Angeles in 1990.
Lewis, 50, is a native of Tallahassee, Florida. He landed on Broadway in a 1993 production of Who’s Tommy, then starred as John, a lead character in the legendary play, Miss Saigon. His other Broadway credits include Les Miserables, Sondheim on Sondheim and Disney’s The Little Mermaid.
Lewis begins his run as the Phantom on May 12th at The Majestic Theater. He will star opposite Sierra Boggess, who plays Christine. But Phantom is not the only Broadway production Lewis is involved in. He’s co-producing The Black Stars of the Great White Way Broadway Reunion, a one-night show at Carnegie Hall set for June.
The production is an all-male tribute featuring the music of Eubie Blake, Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Louis Jordan, Duke Ellington and Paul Robeson. The show honors dancer and choreographer Geoffrey Holder, Brothers Johnson bassist Louis Johnson, producer Stephen Byrd and orchestrator Harold Wheeler.