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This past week it was announced that Phillipa Soo would be starring in the musical, Amélie, slated to open Spring 2017 on Broadway.
The musical, based on the film, features music by Daniel Messé, lyrics by Nathan Tysen and a book by Craig Lucas. It tells the story of a girl with a very active imagination. The show details her life in Paris as she helps those around her try to find love, and ultimately falls in love herself.
While this announcement sparked great excitement due to Soo’s success in Hamilton, it represents an even more exciting moment for performers of color. Because this is exactly the type of casting we’ve been waiting for.
This past year, racial equality in the casting process of Broadway, Film and Television was a hot topic. The issue discussed was not only the amount of opportunities for performers of color but also the types of opportunities as well.
I said it previously in a column that while I’m certainly glad that Miss Saigon provides job opportunities for performers of color, I hope that Asian actors have the chance to play different roles on Broadway other than prostitutes and Viet Cong soldiers.
While more jobs are certainly a positive thing, progress can only be made if open-ethnicity roles are going to performers of color.
While many out there are tired of hearing all the praise heaped on Hamilton, what the musical did was solve the classic “Catch-22” when it comes to casting performers of color in open-ethnicity lead roles: Performers of color can’t be cast as lead actors because they’re not known stars, yet how can they be known stars if they’re not given lead roles.
Nowhere in the character description does it say that the role of Amélie has to be played by an Asian Actress, yet Phillipa Soo is starring in the role next spring. If that’s not progress, I don’t know what is. I can only hope that Broadway continues down this path.