Daniel Radcliffe theatre roles we love
Radcliffe is starring in an Off-Broadway revival of Merrily We Roll Along.
Daniel Radcliffe does it all. His film credits include everything from blockbuster franchises to quirky indie flicks. His stage credits span classic musicals, offbeat dramas, punchy comedies, and more. And he's done it all globally, making Radcliffe a household name all around the world.
His theatre career in particular keeps the English actor hopping between New York and London, and his latest gig on this side of the pond is in a buzzy revival of Merrily We Roll Along at New York Theatre Workshop, opposite Tony Award winner Lindsay Mendez and Tony nominee Jonathan Groff. Radcliffe might be the resident film star next to these two longtime Broadway vets, but Radcliffe has built an impressive stage resume that makes him, too, a bonafide theatre star.
To celebrate his upcoming turn in Merrily We Roll Along and the release of his latest film, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, discover all the highlights from Radcliffe's theatrical career.
The Play What I Wrote
Radcliffe's stage debut was in the British comedy play The Play What I Wrote, a homage to comedy partners Morecambe and Wise. In the show, the main character writes his own play about a celebrity, who performs as themselves. Lots of different celebrities stepped into this "play-within-a-play" during The Play What I Wrote's London and Broadway runs, and Radcliffe was one of them. He performed the show in New York, and his Harry Potter co-star Kenneth Branagh directed.
Radcliffe has built a diverse career on stage and screen, but he'll always be known for creating the iconic role of The Boy Who Lived. The Harry Potter film franchise catapulted Radcliffe to international stardom and made him one of the most widely recognizable actors of the 2000s. Now that there's a stage sequel to the films, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Harry surely counts as a theatre role. Radcliffe has never been involved with the show on Broadway or elsewhere, but it's impossible not to think of Radcliffe and his own onscreen performance when seeing Harry Potter step on stage.
Radcliffe's first leading stage role came when he was just 17 years old, in the 2007 London revival of Equus. In Peter Shaffer's play, Radcliffe played a teenage boy named Alan who worships horses and soon develops a violent obsession. He transferred with the play to Broadway, too, a year later. He received widespread critical praise, ensuring that Equus would only be the start of a long stage career. The New York Times review reads, "Daniel Radcliffe steps into a mothball-preserved, off-the-rack part and wears it like a tailor’s delight — that is, a natural fit that allows room to stretch."
Early on, Equus did raise some eyebrows, as the then-teenaged Radcliffe had to perform a nude scene. But the role was his first major step to moving beyond Harry Potter and into more mature roles on stage and screen — and he proved he had what it takes.
How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
Radcliffe further proved his chops — not only in acting, but singing, too — with the 50th-anniversary revival of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying in 2011. Following in the footsteps of renowned actors like Robert Morse and Matthew Broderick, he took on the leading role of J. Pierrepont Finch, a window washer who schemes his way into a high-powered business executive position. Though his character climbs the ranks without really trying, there's no doubt that Radcliffe put in the hard work to succeed on Broadway and continually extend his range. His performance earned him a Drama Desk Award nomination.
The Woman in Black
In 2012, Radcliffe pivoted back to screen acting, starring as a man haunted by a mysterious ghost in The Woman in Black. The movie is one of many adaptations of the same-named Susan Hill novel: The first film adaptation came out in 1989, and a play premiered in London's West End in 1987. The Woman in Black is currently the second-longest-running play there, and it also came to New York for a brief run in 2022.
The Cripple of Inishmaan
Like Radcliffe, The Cripple of Inishmaan has hopped back and forth to stages on both sides of the pond. Oscar winner Martin McDonagh's play premiered in London in 1996, premiered in New York off Broadway in 2008, got a London revival in 2013, and made its Broadway debut in 2014. Radcliffe played the title role, a disabled orphan who tries to land a part in a Hollywood movie filming nearby, in the latter two iterations.
The London run fully sold out, and the production transferred to Broadway. A Variety review reads that "the grown-up teen idol [Radcliffe] turns in a warm, sympathetic performance as the sweet-tempered but broken-bodied" character.
Many actors make their Off-Broadway debuts before their Broadway debuts, but for Radcliffe, it was the other way around. He starred in his first Off-Broadway show in 2016: The Public Theater's production of Privacy. Unlike at most shows, audiences were encouraged to keep their phones on the whole time! The play was, after all, about the all-consuming presence of technology in modern life, and Radcliffe played a lonely man trying to participate in the digital world without revealing everything to those almost definitely tracking him.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
How to Succeed isn't the only 50th-anniversary revival Radcliffe has led. In 2017, he led Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead as Rosencrantz (opposite Joshua McGuire's Guildenstern) in London's West End. The revival played at the Old Vic, the same theatre where the Shakespeare-inspired comedy first played in 1967.
Stoppard's show puts the titular minor characters from Hamlet center stage, and a Guardian review of this production reads, "Radcliffe’s bearded Rosencrantz is lean, anxious and prone to sudden attacks of panic: McGuire’s clean-shaven Guildenstern is broad-featured, toothy and determined to look on the bright side. Each, at times, partakes of the other’s qualities." In other words, they made a dynamic duo to rival even the Golden Trio.
The Lifespan of a Fact
Radcliffe's most recent Broadway outing was at Studio 54 in The Lifespan of a Fact in 2018 — well, from September 20, 2018 to January 13, 2019, to be perfectly precise with our facts. Radcliffe's character would appreciate that — he played Jim Fingal, a fact-checker assigned to review an essay that turns out to be mostly false, down to the color of bricks in front of a building. This play about finding the balance between accuracy and creativity is based on a book, which in turn is based on a true (yes, actually true) story.
The real Fingal and John D'Agata (the essayist, played by Bobby Cannavale) were involved in the rehearsal process — and ironically, only D'Agata fact-checked the script. They also saw the show multiple times, so it's safe to say they thought Radcliffe's and Cannavale's portrayals were accurate. In a New York Times article, Radcliffe's performance was described as "a sleep-deprived and slightly manic version of Mr. Fingal."
Merrily We Roll Along
Now, Radcliffe is rolling back to the Off-Broadway stage — and adding another musical credit to his resume — in Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's Merrily We Roll Along. He, Groff, and Mendez respectively play Charley, Frank, and Mary, a trio of longtime friends in the theatre business. Their friendship gradually fractures as Frank ditches them for the Hollywood scene, and this 20-year story is told in reverse.
Merrily We Roll Along starts in November, but its star-studded cast has already made it the talk of the theatre scene, with people looking to the digital lottery as their best chance of securing a seat. Tickets to this classic musical may be tough to come by, but if one rolls your way, don't miss your chance to see Radcliffe command the New York stage once more in Merrily We Roll Along.
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