Jonathan Groff on being a Tony Award nominee alongside old friends

He stars with Daniel Radcliffe and Lindsay Mendez in Merrily We Roll Along on Broadway, and Groff shares what his co-stars, the show, and theatre mean to him.

Gillian Russo
Gillian Russo

Thanks to Broadway performances in Spring Awakening and Hamilton and his screen roles in Glee and Frozen, Jonathan Groff has been a theatre favorite for years — and he's got the Tony nominations (for both the aforementioned Broadway shows) to show for it. In 2024, he put one more nomination under his belt, for starring in Stephen Sondheim's musical Merrily We Roll Along.

When that show premiered in 1984, it flopped — but director Maria Friedman reworked Merrily into a hit, first in London in 2012. Ten years later, her production was a sold-out Off-Broadway hit at New York Theatre Workshop, making a Broadway transfer a given.

A key part of Merrily's newfound magic is Friedman's winning cast: In New York, Groff stars as Frank alongside Daniel Radcliffe as Charley and Lindsay Mendez as Mary, three friends in showbiz whose close bond ultimately disintegrates.

The three actors' bond, however, has only gotten stronger with time. Tears came to Groff's eyes as he spoke about it: "There was an immediate chemistry," Groff said. He remembered thinking, "It's going to be easier to try and build a friendship."

Now, not only are Groff, Radcliffe, and Mendez friends, but they're also all nominated for Tony Awards this year, while Merrily is up for Best Revival of a Musical. At a press event for the Tonys, Groff spoke about Mendez and Radcliffe, his first exposure to Merrily, and what the Tonys have meant to him over the years.

Get Merrily We Roll Along tickets now.

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How does it feel to be nominated alongside Daniel and Lindsay after doing Merrily together for nearly two years?

I'd known Lindsay forever; I didn't know Dan. I knew his work, but I didn't really know him personally. And I remember feeling, the first day when we walked into rehearsal, that so much has come for free, like when you go on a good date and the conversation is flowing.

It's really emotional because now, we're actually friends in a deep way. We've seen each other go through so many different things. We were at Lindsay's wedding; Lindsay's pregnant; Dan had a baby with his girlfriend — all in the last two years.

So much life has happened. We've lived the experience of doing the show both personally and as characters. There's so much real feeling that now I don't know where one of us begins and the other one ends. It's such a symbiotic relationship at this point, and to be here celebrating a show like this is phenomenal.

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Did you have a connection to Merrily before joining this production?

[Actor] Gideon Glick, who I did Spring Awakening with, texted us all on the Spring Awakening chain years ago and said, "Oh my god, you guys have to see this Merrily documentary. It's us. It's reminding me so much of us."

In 2021, in November, we did a 15-year anniversary reunion concert of Spring Awakening. I invited [production company] Radical Media to come and record the concert and do a documentary that was, in large part, inspired by that Merrily documentary because I wanted to capture us from 15 years before and us now.

A couple months later, I got asked to be a part of this production. I watched Maria's British production of Merrily on YouTube, which is still there. When the character of Frank [...] said, "I've only made one mistake in my life. I made it over and over and over again, and that was saying yes when I meant no," that was the moment where I was like, "I have to play this part." I feel that so deeply.

Is there anything you wish Sondheim could know about this production?

I feel him talking to us every night. A gift that he left our whole community is his work. Between Off-Broadway and Broadway, we've done Merrily over 300 times. As a performer, that's really kicking the tires of the material if you still feel, over 300 performances in, like there's still so much more to learn. In his work, in his music, in his lyrics, honestly, last night — I'm feeling new things that I've never felt before.

Great art, when you get the chance as an actor to perform it, changes you from the inside out. I feel like I'm learning every day. It's like free therapy to do his work because it's so poetic and so thoughtful and so emotional.

What was your first experience with Sondheim's work?

[My] Sondheim gateway was a VHS from Suncoast Video at the Park City Mall of Into the Woods when I was in seventh or eighth grade. I brought it home. I was like, "What is this? I love musicals. I love fairy tales."

I watched it in one sitting and then I rewound it and then watched it all a second time.

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What did theatre mean to you when you were younger?

Getting the chance to do theatre in [middle] school was life-changing for me. Same thing in high school.

[I had] the opportunity of being on a stage and getting to express myself as a teenager, and then going to see theatre and [discovering] that's it's so easy to understand the medium because you can perform it at school and then also see it. It's the actor's medium — you see people out there doing it live, and there's a real communion with the audience.

Being closeted when I was in high school — as I look back now, I didn't realize it then, but theatre was where I went to express myself, express joy, express sadness, express love, express myself physically, just even the act of singing. When I look back now, I realized that theatre, as a teenager, completely saved my life.

Do you have a favorite memory associated with the Tony Awards? The annual broadcast is many people's introduction to Broadway.

Oh my God, so many. I would record the Tonys on a VHS, and then I would bring them into school and show them to my fellow students in math class.

I taught a unit on the Tony Awards at York Little Theatre summer camp in 2004 with a bunch of 10-year-olds. It was the year of Wicked and Avenue Q and The Boy From Oz and Caroline, or Change. They all held a vote on who they thought should win Best Actress.

Probably the Tony performance I've watched the most is Sutton Foster doing "Forget About the Boy" [from the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie in 2002]. I was in high school. I saw the show six times. The heat coming off her as [...] she's playing this character of moving to New York and wanting to make her dreams come true — I was just lit on fire by her and that performance.

Get Merrily We Roll Along tickets now.

Book Tickets CTA - LT/NYTG

This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.

Photo credit: Lindsay Mendez, Jonathan Groff, and Daniel Radcliffe in Merrily We Roll Along on Broadway. (Photos by Matthew Murphy)

Originally published on

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