Derrick Davis Is First African-American 'Phantom' On Tour

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A new tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber's "The Phantom of the Opera" — conceived by Cameron Mackintosh and directed by Laurence O'Connor with new state-of-the-art effects and projections — comes to Waterbury's Palace Theatre Nov. 15 to 26.

With it comes Derrick Davis, the first African-American to lead a tour of the show, which is the longest-running Broadway musical ever — and still running as it approaches its 30th anniversary in January. We spoke with Davis, who grew up in Amityville, N.Y., from Boston where the tour was playing.

And the first Broadway show you ever saw was…

"The Phantom of the Opera!" I was 11 years old and I sat in the front row. I was completely overtaken by the theatricality of it all, being transported to a different time and place. But it wasn't until afterwards, when I was heading home, then it started to sink in that this is what I want to do, too.

As you became interested in musical theater did you see the possibility of playing the Phantom?

No. I didn't have that on my radar at all. I knew I wanted to do musical theater, first as just being part of the ensemble and then as a title character. It was my mother's influence. She kept telling me matter-of-factly, "You should play the Phantom." And she kept on saying that to me.

After playing both Mufasa and Scar in "The Lion King" and now the Phantom, is there something about you that innately projects majesty?

My parents are from Panama and they came to the States when they were in their 20s and my upbringing was very rigid in the best possible way. So everything that I learned from my parents were order and pride and holding myself as a dignified individual.