Broadway's longest-running show is about to make history once again.
Actress Emilie Kouatchou — who became the first Black performer to play Christine Daaé in Broadway's The Phantom of the Opera as the show's alternate leading lady — will take over the role full-time on Wednesday, coinciding with the musical's 34th anniversary on the Great White Way.
Chicago-born Kouatchou initially began performing the role of Christine three times a week in late October.
Loosely based on the early 20th century novel of the same name by Gaston Leroux, The Phantom of the Opera tells the story of a ghostly and disfigured musical genius lurking beneath the Paris Opera House who falls in love with a gifted young ingénue named Christine.
The show opened at Broadway's Majestic Theatre in 1988, going on to win seven Tony Awards including Best Musical.
In December, Kouatchou opened up to PEOPLE about what it was like to make her Broadway debut in the iconic role — and how she almost changed careers before getting the opportunity of a lifetime.
"I wanted to do the best that I could," she said of her first performance as Christine.
"I just think that Black women, especially in theater, have to be — and it shouldn't be this way — ten times better and work ten times harder. It took this long for any Black woman to play Christine, but there have been so many talented Black women who could have."
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She went on to describe how the COVID-related Broadway shutdown almost caused her to take a sharp turn out of show business.
"I found myself just feeling lost and feeling like I didn't have a purpose anymore," she admitted, adding that she decided to take control of her own destiny and pursue hobbies like yoga and fashion that could potentially pave a new path forward.
Her parents even suggested she enroll in business school shortly before she got the life-changing call about her casting in Phantom.
"I was a little reluctant, but I thought, 'You know what, I could take night classes and still audition.' And so I decided that come the fall, if nothing had happened, I would apply at business schools, and then literally in the fall, this thing happened," Kouatchou said. "I got the call in August, and that just kind of changed everything for me."
The University of Michigan graduate had auditioned for Phantom at least twice before, but it wasn't until last summer that the creative team decided on Kouatchou to be the Christine alternate on Broadway.
While the historic moment in Phantom's 34-year run is not lost on Kouatchou, the actress said that she's looking forward to a time when casting Black actors in roles such as hers is no longer such a monumental occasion.
"It frustrates me that it took this long, it does," she said. "I'm honored that it's me, and I'm honored that I'm making history, but I'm really excited for when it's not even a question, it's not even a thing, the first Black Christine."