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Obituaries

First African American 'Phantom' Robert Guillaume Dies at 89

First African American 'Phantom' Robert Guillaume Dies at 89

BroadwayWorld is saddened to report that Robert Guillaume, the stage's first African American 'Phantom', passed away today, October 24, 2017, due to complications of prostate cancer. He was 89.

Guillaume made his Broadway debut in Finian's Rainbow, followed by roles in Kwamina and Tambourines to Glory before taking the title role in Purlie.

He starred as 'Nathan Detroit' in an all-black revival of Guys and Dolls, which earned him both a Tony and a Drama Desk nomination in 1977. He also played the title role in Broadway's Cyrano - The Musical.

The actor starred as 'The Phantom' in the 1990 Los Angeles production of The Phantom of the Opera, replacing Michael Crawford opposite Dale Kristien as 'Christine.'

Among his Off-Broadway credits were Fly Blackbird, Apple Pie, and Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris, as well as Porgy and Bess at City Center.

The Emmy winner was known for his role as 'Benson Du Bois' in the TV series Soap; the character eventually spun off into his own series, titled 'Benson.' He also played 'Isaac Jaffe' on the sitcom Sports Night. He starred in and made his directorial debut with the TV movie John Grin's Christmas, a black retelling of A Christmas Carol.

Among his other on-screen credits were the films Meteor Man, First Kid, Spy Hard, Big Fish, Columbus Circle, and the small musical dramedy Satin, as well as HBO's Happily Ever After, and miniseries including Children of the Dust, Run for the Dream, Pandora's Clock, and North and South.

Guillaume also voiced the role of 'Rafiki' in Disney's The Lion King, which earned him a Grammy Award.

Watch Guillaume perform "Music of the Night" below!


Pictured: Robert Guillaume starring as 'The Phantom' in The Phantom of the Opera, directed by Harold Prince at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. Photo by Joan Marcus.


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