Broadway has been changed for good.
Because on Feb. 14, one-time understudy Brittney Johnson gave her first performance in her new role as Glinda in “Wicked,” making history as the first Black woman to play the lead role in the Broadway musical full-time.
According to CNN, Johnson received a standing ovation when she entered the stage and again after the show ended. And these cheers extended well beyond the Gershwin Theatre’s walls.
“Thank you all so so much!” Johnson tweeted on Feb. 15. “It’s going to take me some time to read through all your messages and lovely tweets, but I’m so grateful for your love. See you in Oz!”
Johnson first portrayed Glinda, a character inspired by the beloved bubble-traveling good witch in “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” as an understudy in 2019. However, her connection to the character goes way back — the Broadway star attended a production of the long-running show when she was a teen.
“”Wicked” was one of the first shows I ever saw, and so my perception of the industry was just what I could see on stage,” the actress told Harper’s Bazaar earlier this month. “I was this very optimistic preteen. The story in my head was, ‘I’m going to go to New York and all the Broadway auditions are going to be on the stage of the theater and I’m going to book the first thing.’ I’m grateful that my mom was so supportive and told me, ‘You can do anything. You are talented enough for this and I’m going to make sure that you have every opportunity.’ I didn’t grow up in a musical family, so she was like, ‘We’re going to go to New York every weekend.’ She believed in me. And when I decided that this is what I wanted to do, she was all in.”
After years of taking voice lessons, performing in high school musicals and attending New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Johnson was determined to make her Broadway dreams a reality.
“I graduated college and got my agent, and they were like, ‘What do you want to do?’ I said, ‘Wicked,'” she recently recalled to The Hollywood Reporter. “But then I wasn’t able to get an audition — they never called me in.”
Still, she didn’t give up, landing roles in other musicals, such as “Motown,” “Sunset Boulevard,” “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” and “Les Misrables,” before securing her first audition for her dream show in 2018.
“I have worked so hard to be where I am in my career,” Johnson told Harper’s Bazaar, likening her journey to a marathon rather than a sprint. Finally cast in “Wicked,” she performed in the ensemble and as an understudy before officially donning Glinda’s crown. “It’s relief that my hard work is paying off, and it’s relief that I’m finally being seen. And it’s a relief that this moment is being taken seriously and embraced and that because of all of those things, people are seeing themselves represented. It’s a relief that the next generation is standing on our shoulders. It’s that moment when you actually see your hard work pay off and notice it has been worth it. I can take a deep breath. Now I’m to the next leg of the marathon.”