When we found out that Broadway heartthrob Norm Lewis had finally landed his dream role, the Phantom in The Phantom of the Opera opposite his former Little Mermaid daughter Sierra Boggess, we just had to congratulate him ourselves. So we called him up!
Is this the Phantom of the Opera?
It depends on who’s calling!
Congrats! What exciting news.
I’m so glad it’s out now. I've been sworn to secrecy for a month!
How did this happen? Did you get on your knees and beg at the 25th Anniversary Gala?
Yes, exactly. Got right down on my knees! [Laughs.] Actually, I did a symposium called American Voices at the Kennedy Center in November. I was on a panel with [music director] David Caddick and [conductor] David Lai and a question about diversity on Broadway was asked to me. I talked about how blessed I was, but mentioned that I wanted to do Phantom. David and David are both high up in the Phantom world so when Hugh Panaro decided he didn’t want to renew, they said, “How about Norm Lewis?” And I auditioned for Hal Prince and then Cameron Mackintosh, and it just kind of happened!
You told me on Show People last year that this was your dream role. Did you have a secret board at home to make this happen?
I just kept putting it out there. After 26 years, I just wanted someone of color to play that role on Broadway. It didn’t have to me. I just wanted to see somebody do it.
Why the Phantom? What about this part draws you?
It’s a lot of things. It’s iconic. It’s one of those characters, like Sweeney Todd, who I was also able to play, that is so misunderstood. You want to bring some truth to it. I’ve seen it done so many times by Hugh Panaro, who’s one of the quintessential Phantoms out there. And also Howard McGillin, or my first Phantom up in Toronto, Colm Wilkinson. I already knew the music, but when I finally saw the show, I thought, "This is intriguing."
Hugh Panaro was your co-star on Side Show. Have you ever gone backstage and tried on his mask?
I’ve never put the mask on! Hugh is more than a friend—he’s like my brother. It’s almost like a rite of passage for me that he’s handing the baton to me. He’s ready to move on and is passing the role onto me. Hopefully, he’ll give me some great clues and tips. I’m just looking forward to hanging out with him in the last few weeks of his run. And getting on that stage!
What scenes are you dying to actually get up there and perform?
That’s a good question! The ones with Sierra Boggess. I’m anxious to do the lair scene with “Music of the Night.” There are so many things. And running up and down those stairs singing “The Phantom of the Opera.”
Spoiler! I don’t think all of those “Phantoms” are you in that scene!
Oh, really? I was so sure! [Laughs.]
Is it weird that Triton and Ariel are playing The Phantom and Christine together or do we just go with it?
I think we should just go with it. Sierra and I talked about it. We actually call each other “Daddy” and “Daughter.” In a way, the Phantom is kind of a father figure and there’s a mystique to their relationship that hopefully adds some contextual flavor to the role.
Yeah, yeah, but I saw the sequel, Norm. He is not just a father figure!
[Laughs.] OK, but we’re not blood related, so...
Final question. Since saying you wanted to be The Phantom on Broadway.com helped make it come true, what else do you want? Dream big and let’s get it out there.
I want as much money as Oprah Winfrey has in the bank right now. Or Tyler Perry. I want that empire!