HOUSTON — The neon lights of Broadway are shining bright for a Rice University student called up to play the leading role in the "Phantom of the Opera."
It’s been quite the summer for Kanisha Feliciano. The opera singer moved to Houston in 2017 to study music where she earned a Master's of Music from the University of Houston and was earning her Artists Diploma for Opera Performance at Rice University when Broadway came calling.
“While I was at Rice, I was scrolling through Facebook one day and I saw that 'Phantom' had placed this open cattle call,” Feliciano explained. “I recorded ‘Think of Me’, and sent it in.”
Feliciano’s audition caught the attention of those casting for the lead role of Christine Daae, and she was flown to New York for additional auditions.
Ultimately, the role went to Emilie Kouatchou, the first Black woman to play Christine.
However, Feliciano kept in touch.
“I told them please, please, please keep me in mind for the future,” she said.
And they did. Feliciano was called back in April and offered a role in the cast and the understudy role for Christine Daae. Then on June 27, her big moment came.
“I was about to go on for rehearsal and the directors came in and said, ‘just so you know, you are going on as Christine tonight’”.
Feliciano said that day was a whirlwind. Her first task was to focus and make sure she did her job well. She says it wasn’t until after she sang ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’ in the 2nd act, that reality sunk in.
"I got through it, and I just started sobbing because, I’m like, I’ve been dreaming about this since middle school," she said.
That night, Feliciano made history becoming the first Latina to perform that role on Broadway.
"It feels surreal. That is a part of who I am, being Black, being Latina. It’s so important for people to see themselves," she said.
Feliciano won’t be returning to Rice this fall as she’s staying on with "Phantom,'" but no matter how high she flies on Broadway, Houston will always be a part of this star’s rise.