Jonathan Groff’s star turn in ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ earns him his first Tony Award

Jonathan Groff, an affable performer who loves Broadway and loves Broadway, finally won his first Tony Award on Sunday night, taking home the trophy for best leading actor in a musical for his stunning performance in the transformative revival of “Merrily We Roll Along.”

The award provides industry recognition to a star of musical theater who has also found success on screen: He voices the characters of Kristoff and Sven in Disney’s “Frozen” films, has had a recurring role in the television series “Glee” and played King George in “Hamilton,” a performance that reached a wide audience through the live-capture film (as well as the popular cast album).

The Tony recognized Groff’s sympathetic portrayal of Franklin Shepard, the Juilliard-trained composer who abandons his youthful idealism, his stage career and his co-authorship to become a successful filmmaker. Groff uses his considerable charm to give more depth to the character, who might have seemed like a poor soul, and in the process helped make the musical, which was a notorious flop in 1981, into a major hit this time around. (Another important factor: One of Groff’s co-stars is Daniel Radcliffe of “Harry Potter” fame.)

Groff’s performance, which forms the backbone of the production, was well received by critics. Jesse Green, writing in The New York Times, described Groff as “thrillingly fierce” and said “Groff, always a compelling actor, here gives a performance that cannot be ignored.” And Charles McNulty, Writing in the Los Angeles Timessaid, “The key to making this work – that is, to making us care – is Groff’s performance, which humanizes Frank’s choices without sentimentalizing his character.”

Groff, 39, came to Broadway as a swing in the minor flop “In My Life” in 2005. He has been nominated for a Tony Award every time he has returned to Broadway since — in 2007 for playing a rebellious teen in the original production of “Spring Awakening,” in 2016 for his peacock-like performance in “Hamilton” and this year for “Merrily.”

The gaps between Broadway roles have been filled with screen work — he’s also appeared in the streaming series “Look” And “MindhunterAs well as the “Frozen” films, he has also worked off-Broadway from time to time, including serving as the first star of the 2019 revival of “Little Shop of Horrors,” which is still running at the Westside Theatre with several well-known actors in leading roles.

The “Merrily” revival, directed by Maria Friedman, began its life in New York (there were earlier chapters in Britain and Boston with different casts) with a 2022 Off Broadway production at New York Theatre Workshop. The Broadway run began last October; the final performance is set for July 7.


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