First black 'Phantom of the Opera': Still a 'glass ceiling' for black performers

Actor Norm Lewis made history last month, becoming the first African-American to ever star as the Phantom in the Broadway’s long-running musical The Phantom of the Opera.

However, the 51-year-old Tony nominee says there is still a glass ceiling for black actors on Broadway.

“You don’t ever see African-American men being the romantic lead [in Broadway shows],” Lewis told “We’ve had a few guys that have played the romantic lead in Wicked, but you can’t really point out any romantic leads in a show, especially some classic shows that will show African-Americans.”

Lewis garnered a Tony nomination for his role as Porgy alongside Audra McDonald in the 2012 Broadway revival of Porgy and Bess and most recently starred as Kerry Washington’s on-again-off-again love interest in ABC’s Scandal.

“I’m known as the guy [Olivia Pope] kicked to the curb,” Lewis said. “My arc was done because I was too nice… I was too good. The audience wanted her to be a little bit more gritty and dirty. That’s why they love her affair with the President.”

Up next, Lewis is producing a show at legendary Carnegie Hall honoring black history.

The Black Stars of the Great White Way brings together Lewis along with several other Broadway legends, including Ben Vereen, Andre De Shields, Cecily Tyson, Phylicia Rashad, Savion Glover and Chita Rivera, to honor the achievements of black men on Broadway.

The Black Stars of The Great White Way Broadway Reunion: Live The Dream will take place June 23 at 8 PM in Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage.

Follow Chris Witherspoon on Twitter @WitherspoonC.