A new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera is kicking off its North American tour in at Overture Center for the Arts, running from January 25 to February 5. The production, by Cameron Mackintosh, features new scenic design, new choreography, new staging, and Derrick Davis, an Afro-Latino actor, as The Phantom.
Davis is only the third Black man to play the iconic role. His previous credits include both Mufasa and Scar in The Lion King on Broadway and Curtis Taylor, Jr. in the Dallas Theater Center production of Dreamgirls, both of which feature predominantly Black casts.
“The dynamics between an all-Black cast and an all-white cast are polar opposites. Not to put them in any boxes or anything, but The Lion King cast was very boisterous, very familiar and this cast is very different, so to speak, and it was a bit of an adjustment,” said Davis.
If you’re unfamiliar with the play, The Phantom is a physically deformed and somewhat supernatural being who also happens to be a highly skilled composer. As the story goes he escaped from a traveling freak show and now “haunts” an opera house, killing and terrorizing all the defy his wishes.
In general, the character is a menacing one, but when you combine the play’s components of a misunderstood monstrosity and a young white damsel in distress with a Black actor, there is a particular historical context that cannot be overlooked. The otherness of The Phantom’s character becomes more notable than ever.
“I relate to the character so much and that sounds strange because he’s such a fantastic character, but at his core he’s just a human being,” said Davis
He considers the ability to play the role “an honor” as it was the first play his parents took him to see.
“For me, The Phantom is musical theater. Everything else kind of falls around it,” said Davis.
The North American tour will continue through August 2018, after which Davis plans to go into television and film and aspires to work with Tyler Perry.