Jonathan Groff’s Star Turn in ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ Lands Him His First Tony

Jonathan Groff’s Star Turn in ‘Merrily We Roll Along’ Lands Him His First Tony

Jonathan Groff, a gregarious performer who loves and is loved by Broadway, finally won his first Tony Award on Sunday night, picking up a trophy for best leading actor in a musical for his star turn in a transformational revival of “Merrily We Roll Along.”

The award bestows industry recognition on a musical theater star who has also found success onscreen: He voices the characters Kristoff and Sven in Disney’s “Frozen” films, had a recurring role on 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 recognizes Groff’s empathetic portrayal of Franklin Shepard, a Juilliard-trained composer who jettisons his youthful idealism, his stage career and his co-writer to become a successful film producer. Groff uses his considerable charm to give the character, who can seem like a sellout, more depth, and in the process has helped make the musical, which was a notorious flop in 1981, into a huge hit this time around. (Another key factor: One of Groff’s co-stars is Daniel Radcliffe, of “Harry Potter” fame.)

Groff’s performance, which is the scaffolding on which the production is constructed, was widely praised by critics. Jesse Green, writing in The New York Times, described Groff as “thrillingly fierce,” and said “Groff, always a compelling actor, here steps up to an unmissable one.” And Charles McNulty, writing in The Los Angeles Times, said, “The key to making this work — which is to say making us care — is the performance of Groff, who humanizes Frank’s choices without sentimentalizing his arc.”

Groff, 39, arrived on Broadway as a swing in a short-lived 2005 flop, “In My Life.” He has been nominated for a Tony Award each time he has returned to Broadway since — in 2007 for his starring role as a rebellious adolescent in the original production of “Spring Awakening,” in 2016 for his peacockish performance in “Hamilton” and this year for “Merrily.”

The stretches between Broadway roles have been filled with screen work — he starred in the streaming series “Looking” and “Mindhunter,” as well as the “Frozen” films. He has also periodically worked Off Broadway, including as the first star of a 2019 “Little Shop of Horrors” revival that is still running, with a variety of well-known performers in leading roles, at the Westside Theater.

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

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