Brittany Johnson is officially “Popular.” The actress debuted as the first full-time Black Glinda in Broadway’s Wicked, per CNN.
Johnson, who has previously understudied the role, had her first performance as the production’s lead, Glinda, on Monday, Feb. 14. The show opens with Glinda floating down in a bubble, at which point Johnson received a standing ovation. She got another two-minute standing ovation during closing.
For those of you who aren’t obsessed with Wicked, and see it every time it comes near your home, it follows friends turned rival witches Elphaba and Glinda, telling the story of what happens in Oz before Dorothy shows up.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Johnson discussed why she’s stayed with Wicked since joining as an understudy in 2018.
“There’s something so special about that building, about the people that work at Wicked,” Johnson said. “About their kind of reverence for theater as an art form, for the ability to make a living doing theater.”
This isn’t the actress’ only history-making Broadway performance. During her time in Les Misérables, she was the first Black woman to play both principal roles Eponine and Fantine. Johnson is well aware of the importance this representation has on the theater community. It’s the reason she stayed with Wicked, holding out for her dream part.
“The impact that I’ve been able to make has certainly kept me there,” she says. “My desire to keep moving up in the ranks and eventually take over this role has also kept me here.”
As happy as I am to see a Black Glinda take center stage, what took so long? Wicked opened in 2003 and is one of the most popular stage productions of all time. There’s no reason it should take almost 20 years to get here. And by the way, Alexia Khadime, who played the part from May 2009 to March 2010, is the one and only full-time Elphaba. Let’s make that next on the list shall we. In the meantime, I guess I’ll just have to wait for Cynthia Erivo to sing opposite Ariana Grande in the upcoming Wicked film adaptation.
A show with such a global reach and loyal fanbase should reflect that in its leading roles. Here’s hoping Johnson’s historic run will signal a change for the Land of Oz.