Norm Lewis Sings "The Music of the Night" as He Fulfills His Dream of Starring in The Phantom of the Opera

By Janice C. Simpson
09 May 2014

Sierra Boggess will return to the show as Lewis' "Christine"
Photo by Joan Marcus

Even so, he opted to study business in college, participating in local talent contests for fun. A judge at one competition offered Lewis a job singing on a cruise ship. His cast mates, several of whom had worked on Broadway, encouraged him to try his luck in New York. Two weeks after he arrived in 1989, he booked his first job as in a production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the Candlewood Playhouse. A steady flow of jobs followed, leading up to his Broadway debut in The Who's Tommy. "I vowed that I wanted to make Broadway before age 30 and I did it," said the actor.

Lewis has appeared in nine Broadway shows since then, often taking roles like Javert and Billy Flynn, the slick lawyer in Chicago, that are usually played by white actors. "I just never thought 'I'm just going to go for a show that has a black theme.' I went for everything," he said.

Yet, his favorite role thus far turns out to be what is probably the most famous role for a black actor: Porgy. "It put me, I guess, in a different category," he said of the part that earned him a Tony nod. "People who had never seen me before, despite the number of shows I've had, came to see me and discovered [me]."

Among them were the producers of the hit television show "Scandal," the political thriller about skullduggery in Washington. They ended up casting him as a love interest for star Kerry Washington. "They said, 'We didn't know who you were, but we're glad we met you,'" he said.

For now Lewis is happy to focus on the Phantom. He's looking forward to reuniting with Sierra Boggess, his Little Mermaid costar, who will be his Christine. And he's already sought advice from the departing Phantom, his old pal Hugh Panaro ("I'm going to steal everything I can from him," he joked).

He knows how demanding it'll be. "You have to take care of yourself," he said. "So that you can give 100 percent eight times a week."

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