By Zita Lam
Northwest Asian Weekly
After a 28-year run of the most classic Broadway show of all time, the New York production of The Phantom of the Opera has made history this year by recruiting the first Asian American Christine, Ali Ewoldt.
Together with Jordan Donica, these two new faces officially took the stage in Broadway’s ‘Phantom’ on June 13. “The audiences have been amazing!” Ewoldt told the Northwest Asian Weekly. “Family members, friends across the country, and a wonderful group from The King and I of Broadway, which I used to work with, have come to the show. They are thrilled and very proud.”
This new leading lady, whose mother is from the Philippines, instantly made headlines after the casting announcement. “I want to perform the role to the best of my ability and to be able to tell the story just as well as anybody has been able to. To then keep the door open for other Asian actresses or people of ethnicity to play the role in the future.”
“It has been really remarkable. I have been completely moved and overwhelmed by the responses I have gotten from my colleagues, other Asian American performers, and people from the Asian community.” Ewoldt believes the climate in America is changing, especially for the performing community. “Students being inspired to get to play Christine one day, now they believe it is possible.” Ewoldt remembered as a child, watching Lea Salonga play Éponine in Les Misérables. “She was incredible in it, and it had nothing to do with being Asian. It’s very much inspired me to be able to play different kinds of roles.”
As far as Ewoldt’s version of Christine is concerned, she said, “We don’t have to discuss anything about me being Asian American.” Having a supportive producer and an amazing creative team, Ewoldt was grateful for all the support. “I know that they approve of what I am doing and they are helping me to do my job to the best of my ability. I think the best thing that we can do is do the show well.”
This was Ewold’s first time working with Donica, the first African American actor to play Raoul. Ewoldt said she appreciated learning the show together with her leading man. “He just got out of school, but he has already been an incredibly beautiful, grounded performer. He’s got an amazing voice and we have been able to lean on each other and really create as a team.”
When asked about her favorite scene of all, Ewoldt replied, “I love that in the final scene, when both Raoul and the Phantom are there, a love-triangle emerges. There are dangers and emotions, and also Christine’s opportunity to stand up for herself and make choices in her life.”
After graduating from Yale with a BA in Psychology, Ewoldt started her career at the University’s Graduate Music Program.
As a young student, she received performance training while completing her degree. After graduating, she landed great jobs right from the get-go. Prior to ‘Phantom,’ Ewoldt was in many well-known productions, including Disney’s Aladdin, Les Misérables, West Side Story, and The King and I.
Between acting and having a career in psychology, Ewoldt said her first love will always be musical theater. Despite the fact that she grew up in love with performing, she understands the challenges of the field and therefore decided to focus on academics. However, she emphasized, “I just love performing so much that I would be willing to make it work anyway I could.”
Ewoldt considers herself very fortunate to break into the industry immediately after graduation. “Certainly for me, there have been many months of unemployment and desperately searching for jobs or auditioning, and getting very close but not booking things. Overall, I would say that I have been able to do very well. My mother, I think, had a harder time with the deposed period, the months where I wasn’t getting any major jobs.” She continued, “It is so much about being in the right place at the right time, and being prepared for that moment. In many ways, it is just sort of a game of persistence and patience.”
Broadway’s The Phantom of the Opera is playing until Jan. 28, 2017.
Zita can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.