Lancaster native Jonathan Groff wins his first Tony Award

Jonathan Groff poses on the red carpet at Disney’s D23 Expo in 2019. PHOTO COURTESY OF WALT DISNEY TELEVISION / FLICKR

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On Sunday night, Lancaster native Jonathan Groff won his first Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for “Merrily We Roll Along.”

In “Merrily We Roll Along,” Groff plays Franklin Sheppard, a musical composer who chases theatrical dreams with two lifelong friends, played by Lindsay Mendez and Daniel Radcliffe. The show tells the story of their deteriorating friendship over 20 years in reverse chronological order.

The show was a quick-closing flop when it debuted on Broadway in 1981. However, this revival has become one of the hottest-selling tickets this past year, a fact that many critics have attributed to the performances of Groff, Mendez, and Radcliffe. 

For those who are not theatre fans, Groff winning a Tony is the theatre equivalent of Leonardo DiCaprio finally winning an Oscar.

This is the third time Groff has been nominated for a Tony. He was nominated first in 2007 for his starring role as Melchior Gabor in “Spring Awakening” and then again in 2016 for his performance as King George III in “Hamilton.” 

During his acceptance speech, Groff thanked family and teachers who have supported him along the way. He shared “I grew up in a house surrounded by cornfields in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. I was raised by my parents, Jim and Julie Groff, and my brother David, and the three of them were sitting right there… Thank you for always allowing my freak flag to fly without ever making me feel weird about it. Even if they didn’t always understand me, my family knew the life-saving power of fanning the flame of a young person’s passions without judgment.” 

He also took time to thank those who have guided him along the way, shouting out his former teacher Sue Fisher, saying she encouraged him to pursue a career on Broadway.

A teary-eyed Groff recalled growing up in Pennsylvania and longing to be part of the Broadway community, remarking “I just want to say when I was a kid in Pennsylvania, I used to record the Tony Awards on a VHS tape and watch the performances over and over again, and to actually be able to be a part of making theater in this city, and just as much, to be able to watch the work of this incredible, incredible community has been the greatest gift and pleasure of my life. And I thank you and thank you so much for this honor.”

“Merrily We Roll Along” did well at the Tony Awards, winning four of the seven awards it was nominated for, including Best Revival of a Musical. Radcliffe also won his first Tony for Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Musical for his role as Charley Kringas.

Groff will star in “Merrily We Roll Along” at the Hudson Theatre until the production closes on July 7.