Lewis made history as Broadway's first African-American Phantom when he joined the Broadway cast of the musical in May 2014 alongside returning Phantom star Sierra Boggess. Tony Award nominee Robert Guillaume was the first African-American actor to play the role, having succeeded original Phantom star Michael Crawford in the Los Angeles production.
Lewis spoke with Playbill.com about taking on the iconic role when he joined the cast last year. The actor said he fell in love with the role when he first saw Phantom over 20 years ago, but never thought it to be within reach. For years during interviews, he would call out the show as one of his dream roles. "I said, 'Wow, I’d love to do that part.' Never really knowing if that was a possibility or not, because I didn't know anyone African American who had done it until I did a little bit of research and found out that Robert Guillaume did it in Los Angeles (in 1990), but I figured he was a star, so they would only probably put someone who's a minority who was already a star into that role," he confessed. "So it was always kind of on the backburner for me and never really thinking it would ever come to be realized."
Despite an impressive Broadway resumé, Lewis compared his Phantom role to winning the lottery. "There are so many brothers out here who can just sing circles around this show and do a phenomenal job... I was the lucky one that got picked, so I need to do my best and bring my A-game, and then hopefully that will open the door for other people."
"In fact, Andrew Lloyd Webber even said that this is a game changer and that there will probably be more opportunities for other minorities to be a part of this show," he continued. "And [it will] also let other producers and other creative people see this is an opportunity for other blacks who have the same talent to be leads in shows, especially if it doesn't deal with race."
Lewis earned a Tony nomination for Porgy and Bess, and has also been seen in the 25th anniversary concert of Les Misérables, as well as Sondheim on Sondheim, Side Show, The Wild Party, Dessa Rose and Miss Saigon. Lewis will be succeeded by James Barbour (A Tale of Two Cities, Jane Eyre), who begins performances as the Phantom Feb. 9.
The cast also features Julia Udine as Christine and Jeremy Hays as Raoul. The musical co-stars Laird Mackintosh (Monsieur André), Tim Jerome (Monsieur Firmin), Michele McConnell (Carlotta), Linda Balgord (Madame Giry), Christian Šebek (Piangi) and Kara Klein (Meg Giry). At certain performances, Kaley Ann Voorhees plays Christine.
The Phantom of the Opera is produced by Cameron Mackintosh and The Really Useful Group, has music by Lloyd Webber and is directed by Harold Prince. Lyrics are by Charles Hart (with additional lyrics by Richard Stilgoe), and the book is by Stilgoe and Lloyd Webber.
It has production design by the late Maria Björnson, lighting by Andrew Bridge and sound design by Mick Potter with original sound by Martin Levan. Musical staging and choreography are by Gillian Lynne. Orchestrations are by David Cullen and Lloyd Webber.
For more information visit phantombroadway.com.