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Brittney Johnson becomes 1st Black woman to play Glinda full-time in 'Wicked'

She previously made history as the role's standby.
Credit: Greg Allen/Invision/AP
Actors Brittney Johnson, left, and Lindsay Pearce hold hands on stage during the curtain call of the musical "Wicked" at the Gershwin Theatre on Monday, Feb. 14, 2022, in New York.

NEW YORK — While much of America was focused on Valentine's Day, leading lady Brittney Johnson was making history on Broadway.

On Monday night, she descended onto the stage via a bubble – making her debut as the first Black woman to play Glinda full-time in "Wicked" the musical.

Johnson is a familiar face to her castmates at the Gershwin Theatre. She previously broke barriers as the Glinda standby.

In the nearly 20 years since the show premiered with Kristin Chenoweth, 18 women have held the full-time starring role of Glinda on Broadway. Of them, Glamour Magazine says Johnson is not just the first Black woman, but also the first woman of color to play the good witch – period.

“I’m really excited for people to be able to see someone who looks like them onstage, wearing the crown,” Johnson told NBC News. “As soon as I put that crown on — and there’s something about wearing a crown — it’s very special."

Johnson has been impressing audiences across Broadway. Her credits include Les Misérables, Sunset Boulevard, Motown, and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.

Wicked stands out, though. It's the fifth longest-running show on Broadway, and it's currently being adapted into a movie.

Fans, of course, will know the musical's other leading witch – the one in the center of the show's playbill – is Elphaba, whose skin is green. In a show with skin tone as a central plot point, there has never been a Black woman starring full-time as Elphaba on Broadway.

Alexia Khadime has played the leading role in London. Saycon Sengbloh was a standby on Broadway. But, no Black woman has played the wicked witch full-time in New York City.

Perhaps Broadway will soon take a cue from Hollywood. Emmy, Grammy and Tony Award winner Cynthia Erivo will grace the big screen as Elphaba in the upcoming film, which will feature Ariana Grande as Glinda.

This past December, actor Jordan Barrow became the first Black performer to step on stage as principal Boq in Wicked's Broadway company.

When Johnson made her debut Monday, the audience erupted in applause. After 20 seconds, Johnson exclaimed Glinda's iconic opening line "It's good to see me, isn't it?" – striving to be heard over the applause celebrating her historic moment. Even then, the cheers only continued.

That night, she left a message for her social media followers: "Let us be glad."

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