By Matthew Blank
12 May 2014
Lewis is the first African-American actor to star as the Phantom in the New York production. Tony Award nominee Robert Guillaume succeeded original star Michael Crawford in the Los Angeles production.
The engagement marks Boggess' return to the musical, following her appearance in the 25th Anniversary Broadway cast of Phantom in 2013, as well as the 25th Anniversary production at London's Royal Albert Hall.
Lewis and Boggess previously co-starred in the father-daughter roles of King Triton and Ariel, respectively, in the 2007 Broadway production of The Little Mermaid.
"Having worked with Norm since the 90s, when he played John in Miss Saigon on Broadway, and then Javert on Broadway in Les Misérables in 2006, I couldn’t be more thrilled that he is now joining Phantom, matched with Sierra – one of the finest Christines ever. It’s hard to imagine a more exciting pairing, as the show continues its phenomenal, history-making run at The Majestic," producer Cameron Mackintosh said in a statement
Lewis, who first saw the legendary musical 20 years ago in Toronto while starring in a production of Miss Saigon, said he fell in love with the role 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."
Last November, good fate and perfect timing came into play for Lewis while participating in the American Voices Festival at The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. Unbeknownst to Lewis, some decision makers for Phantom of the Opera were in the audience. During an audience talkback symposium, the ubiquitous question of "What steps have been made to have minorities be in non-traditional roles?" came up, and Lewis seized the moment to offer: "We've come far, but you know, I still would love to be able to be considered for The Phantom; there's never been a black Phantom on Broadway."
Fast-forward to a couple of months later and the role was his. "When the opportunity came up that they needed a replacement, they said, 'Let's get Norm Lewis into the mix.' So they had me audition with other people, and I was the lucky one that got chosen," he revealed.
Despite an impressive Broadway resumé, Lewis still compares 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.
Boggess has also been seen on Broadway in Master Class. She starred in the London world premiere of the Phantom sequel, Love Never Dies, and the original Las Vegas production of Phantom.
Lewis will perform all eight performances of Phantom each week. Boggess' schedule follows: Week of May 12 (Monday-Saturday evenings), Sara Jean Ford will perform the Thursday and Saturday matinees; beginning May 19 (Tuesday evening, Wednesday evening, Thursday matinee, Friday evening and Saturday evening), Sarah Jean Ford will perform Monday evenings and Saturday matinees.
For the week of June 9 only, Boggess will perform Tuesday evening, Wednesday evening, Thursday evening, Friday evening, Saturday matinee and Saturday evening. Mary Michael Patterson returns as the Christine alternate and will perform on Monday evening and the Thursday matinee.
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 Richard Stilgoe and Andrew 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 Andrew Lloyd Webber.
For more information visit phantombroadway.com.