First black actress to play Christine in Broadway’s Phantom of the Opera to make history

Emilie Kouatchou

Matthew Murphy Emilie Kouatchou in The Phantom of the Opera

Emilie Kouatchou go down in history as first black actress to play Christine Daaé in Broadwaythe production of The Phantom of the Opera.

Talk to sheinelle jones on Thursday’s episode of Today show, said Kouatchou Phantom was the first show she had ever seen on Broadway, which made her role even more special.

At the time, it had never occurred to him that she could play Christine in the Andrew Lloyd Webber-musical compound one day.

“I think my mindset was always that this role wasn’t for me, which is just a sad reality. And that feels like a lot of unlearning just to be able to say, ‘No, I can do it'” , remembers Kouatchou.

“I knew I could sing the devil of Christine,” she added.

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Asked by Jones how she sees the importance of “someone who sees herself on stage sometimes in a show”, the actress and singer, who graduated from the University of Michigan in 2019, said: “I think that makes all the difference.”

“I grew up seeing people like audra mcdonald and Heather Headley on stage, being excellent,” Kouatchou said. “These are the people who gave me hope that I could have a career in this field.”

“If they hadn’t done what they did, I probably wouldn’t be here,” she added.

Kouatchou took on the role of Christine full-time in Broadway’s longest-running musical last month after first starring as an understudy. She realized the role would be hers when she sang “Think of Me” with the orchestra for the first time.

“I just remember being so choked up that I couldn’t finish the song,” she said.

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Kouatchou made her Great White Way debut on October 27, performing for the first time as Christine three times a week at the Majestic Theatre.

In December she told PEOPLE she felt immense pressure in the days leading up to his debut: “There were a lot of nights where I felt like maybe I wasn’t good enough for this, or that I had the weight of all these people who admired me [on my shoulders]and I wanted to do the best I could.”

“I just think black women, especially in theater, need to be — and shouldn’t be — 10 times better and work 10 times harder,” Kouatchou continued. “It took this long for any black woman to play Christine, but there were so many talented black women who could have.”

And while McDonald, 51, and Headley, 47, are her heroes, “I’ve had a lot of girls approach me and say, ‘Hey, that’s a dream role for me, and you make it possible for me to achieve this goal. Sometimes when I’m so in my head about what I’m doing on the show, it’s a great reminder that it’s something,” Kouatchou told PEOPLE.

She added, “No matter what I do on stage, me in this costume and me wearing this wig and me singing these songs and just my face like a face of Phantom [is] so important.”

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