September 06, 2007
On the entertainment scene, Jonathan Groff is the biggest thing to come out of Lancaster since "Witness" and he didn't have to wear a straw hat or drive a buggy to do it. He got a Tony nomination for the best leading actor in a musical this year. Groff didn't take home Broadway's honor (David Hyde Pierce did) but he's got plenty of time to win another -- he's only 22.
Despite his growing fame, Groff hasn't forgotten where it all began. He returns to Lancaster tonight as honorary chairman for the Fulton's production of "West Side Story" and "Tonight/ Tonight" gala in honor of the theater's 155th anniversary and the musical's 50th year.
Q: Describe your strongest early memory of theater.
A: It was seeing "Annie Get Your Gun" at the high school. I was in elementary school. They brought the elementary schools to see the high school play. I was mesmerized. It really reached out and grabbed me. From that moment on, I knew that I had to be a part of this world.
Q: Cast members get really close during high school plays. Were your fellow actors more distant on Broadway?
I think that I am in a very unique situation with "Spring Awakening" and I'm very lucky. Because everyone is young and around the same age, and this is the biggest thing that we've all ever worked on. The cast bonded just as you would in a high school show. No one is married or have families or anything to take care of outside of the show so the show is our life, just as it is in high school. The people in this show will be in my life forever. That's how close we've all gotten. I think that our bond also translates into the show and makes it more exciting to watch.
Q: New York is a far cry from Lancaster. How did you adapt to city life?
A: It was a challenge. Lancaster is much slower paced than New York City. When I got to New York, literally, the first day I moved here, I got a job waiting tables. You just have to jump right in and become a part of the city in some way in order to get used to the fast pace. After a month or so of just getting used to waiting tables, then I slowly started auditioning and taking classes and adding more stuff to my plate.
Q: You came back earlier this year to help Ephrata Performing Arts Center raise funds. Now you're back to open the Fulton's season. Do people at home treat you differently now that you're a Broadway star?
A: Not differently at all, and I wouldn't want them to. I may have learned a lot and grown up a lot over the past two and a half years since I moved to the city, but I'm still the same person.
Q: I watched the Tonys and after they called David Hyde Pierce's name as the winner, you had the biggest smile on your face. What was running through your head?
A: I knew that I didn't have a very good chance of winning, so I was prepared for that going into it. I was really happy that David Hyde Pierce won because he is such a sweet man and has been working really hard for a long time and deserves to have a Tony. I think he is really talented and will also bring a lot of people to Broadway so the community is lucky to have him.
Q: Now, what can we expect next from Jonathan Groff? Movies, TV, a CD?
A: [Laughs.] I don't know. That's one of the great things about this business, you never know what you will be doing next until it comes to you. At this point, I will be doing this show until they kick me out.
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