All the times Josh Groban did theatre
Groban stars in the latest revival of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Outside theatre circles, where he's best known as "dear, bewildered, and awkward Pierre" from Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, three-time Grammy nominee Josh Groban is best known as the angelic voice behind a popular "You Raise Me Up" cover and The Polar Express's "Believe." But even those credits alone show that, in his 20-plus-year career, he's amassed a diverse resume in both singing and acting.
He got his start as a singer in the early aughts, but especially since the 2010s, Groban has taken more and more steps into the theatre world. He studied acting even before singing, making him a natural fit for musical theatre. Groban has participated in plenty of theatre-adjacent projects, the latest being NBC's Beauty and the Beast Live! on December 15. He also has his second Broadway outing lined up: the latest revival of Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street in February 2023.
Before you see Groban step into the shoes of the infamous demon barber, learn about all the times he's participated in theatre in the past. Though he's only performed in one other Broadway show thus far, it's clear why he's a theatre favorite.
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It's a musical so nice, Groban sang it twice. A 2003 concert production of Chess — meaning that there were minimal sets, costumes, and movement around the stage — marked Groban's first major theatre gig. In this show about a Russian and American chess player competing, he played "The Russian" Anatoly Sergievsky alongside a slew of Broadway stars: Adam Pascal, Norm Lewis, Sutton Foster, Julia Murney, and Raúl Esparza. In hindsight, his casting foreshadowed his eventual Broadway debut as another Russian lead!
In 2008, London's Royal Albert Hall hosted a similar production, Chess in Concert, and Groban and Pascal reprised their roles alongside an otherwise new cast. Idina Menzel also starred, and she and Groban went on to perform together twice more: for PBS's Soundstage series and on Groban's 2018 Bridges tour.
Groban made two appearances on this theatre-centric TV show about a high school glee club. He guest stars as himself in two episodes of Season 1, beginning with "Acafellas." In that episode, he shows up to one of the high school's a cappella concerts, but only to deliver a restraining order against former glee club supervisor Sandy Ryerson and confirm he is not, in fact, in search of an opening act.
The episode "Journey" sees Groban as a celebrity guest judge at a regional singing competition alongside fictional news anchor Rod Remington (Bill A. Jones), theatre-hating cheer coach Sue Sylvester (real-life Broadway veteran Jane Lynch), and Olivia Newton-John, playing a mean version of herself.
Never Mind the Buzzcocks
Never Mind the Buzzcocks is a British quiz show that aired on BBC Two for nearly 20 years. The show mostly featured questions about pop music, but some theatre music made it in there, too. In 2010, Groban guest hosted an episode, which he ended by singing "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Misérables with Michael Ball.
Groban truly affirmed his love for theatre in 2015 by releasing Stages, an album of Broadway showtune covers. He sang classic theatre hits like "What I Did for Love" from A Chorus Line, "Bring Him Home" from Les Misérables, "Finishing the Hat" from Sunday in the Park with George, and, honoring his history with Chess, "Anthem." The album earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, and the live version, Stages Live, got a nomination in the same category the next year.
One of the other songs on the album was a mashup of two Sondheim tunes: "Children Will Listen" from Into the Woods and "Not While I'm Around" from Sweeney Todd. Long before the 2023 revival, he showed he had what it takes to play Todd.
Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812
After amassing all these theatre-related credits, Groban finally made his Broadway debut in 2016 in Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, a musical adaptation of Part 8 of War and Peace. His performance as Pierre, an unhappily married man looking for purpose in life, earned him a Tony Award nomination for Best Leading Actor in a Musical, a Drama League Award nomination for Distinguished Performance, and a Theatre World Award.
In this production, the orchestra was scattered among the actors, who performed all around them. At a few moments in the show, Groban would go over to one of those musicians and play a few notes on the piano or the accordion. He's a musician through and through.
The 72nd Tony Awards
Groban may have lost the Tony to Ben Platt in 2017, but to make up for it, he co-hosted the following year's Tony ceremony with Sara Bareilles. The two, along with Shaina Taub, penned a cheeky opening number called "This One's For You" about how they've never won any major awards, but like lots of popular shows who lost Best Musical, they're successful anyway. "Take it from two singing tuxedos / Smile tonight, no matter how it goes / Remember the shows who've proven a lack of top honor / Won't make you a goner / It might even make you a host!" they sang.
That song, and the pair's hosting, earned Groban two Emmy nominations: for Outstanding Music and Lyrics and Outstanding Live Variety Special. Since that performance, Bareilles has gotten a Grammy, but Groban has yet to snag an award. Maybe this will be his year!
Beauty and the Beast Live!
He's retelling a tale as old as time. Groban stars as the Beast in NBC's latest televised musical, Beauty and the Beast Live! Opposite H.E.R. as Belle, he plays an arrogant prince who's been bewitched to look like a monster, and he must learn to love to reverse the curse. Be Groban's guest by catching this magical show on screen!
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
With all these theatre credits, it's hard to believe Sweeney Todd is only Groban's second Broadway show. The title role of this show couldn't be a further cry from Pierre: Both are outsiders in their societies, but whereas Pierre is awkward and shy, Sweeney Todd is strong, vengeful, and violent. In the Sweeney Todd musical, he and meat pie shop owner Mrs. Lovett (played by Annaleigh Ashford in this revival) team up on a murder spree — first targeting two people, and soon the entire city of London.
Sondheim's musical thriller is sure to show the extent of Groban's range, and he'll serve up a deliciously dark performance when Sweeney Todd sets up shop on Broadway in February.
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