Jonathan Groff’s "Landmark" Cabaret
The year 2014 belonged to Jonathan Groff. The Spring Awakening star and Glee antagonist was a part of some of television's and film's most critically acclaimed projects. Groff shared the screen with Mark Ruffalo in HBO's The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer's story about the emergence of the AIDS crisis in the 1980s. He also turned heads in his first leading role in a television series, HBO's Looking, which chronicles the lives of three friends looking for love in San Francisco. Even children got to enjoy the sound of Groff's voice, as he lent his vocals to Kristoff opposite Kristen Bell's Anna in Frozen.
In 2015, Groff doesn't seem to be slowing down. The year started with a small yet memorable role in Oscar frontrunner American Sniper. The multifaceted performer will star in New York City Center's Encores! Off-Center revival of A New Brain this June, but first he'll make a stop at Long Island's Landmark on Main Street on January 30 for an intimate cabaret showcasing his many talents.
TheaterMania chatted with Groff about his cabaret show, the second season of Looking, and a possible reunion with his four-legged Frozen costar, Sven.
How do you prepare for performing in an intimate setting such as Landmark?
I love a cabaret type of setting. [Music Director] Mary-Mitchell Campbell and I prepare specifically for the venue and the city that I'm in…Perhaps there's a song or two that's specific for the venue we're at. The thing that makes cabaret interesting is that it's in the moment and unscripted…so each performance is different. We try to do an audience-participation moment in all of our shows. I've always loved the bit when Carol Burnett would talk to the audience on The Carol Burnett Show. I love being myself and just talking to the crowd.
You said you try to arrange a set specifically for where you are performing. What do you have in store for Landmark?
We figured the people of Long Island would like to hear some classical musical theater. I'm doing this sort of evolution of a song — it ends with South Pacific's "Younger Than Springtime." It's basically the development process of Rodgers and Hammerstein writing the song. They presented a song to director Joshua Logan, he said no, he asked for something more, so they presented another song, and eventually it ended up being "Younger Than Springtime." What I'm doing is a little tutorial on the evolution of a musical-theater piece…and then we'll see where the night takes us!
How has your career changed since the megahit Frozen?
The most exciting thing that has happened to me since Frozen is that I've provided the trump card for a lot of parents by creating voice memos for their children. I've gotten a lot of, "I'm the coolest uncle ever now!" or "Thank you for making my child behave!" They ask me to make these personalized voice memos as Kristoff. The kids go crazy. That's been the most fun.
Obviously you'll have to incorporate Frozen into your cabaret show. Will Kristoff's reindeer sidekick, Sven, be making any appearances?
[laughs] You're reading my mind right now. That moment may happen! We haven't worked out the specificity of it in the show, but there will definitely be a Frozen moment. If Kristoff himself was going to take on musical theater, I think he'd be a great Fiyero [in Wicked]. He's big, burly, and blonde, after all.
How do you incorporate other aspects of your career into your solo shows?
I'm singing a song that's related to Looking. It's very meaningful to me, so I'll talk about the show there. With Looking, one of the things that's required of us on set is a sort of unprepared preparedness, because it's really all about creating the most realistic moment of a scene. We come in sort of unrehearsed and find it in the moment of shooting. I definitely apply that sensibility and that freedom to cabaret.
What can we expect from Patrick, your character on Looking, in the second season?
You can expect the characters and the story lines to get a little bit more expanded and deeper. A lot of the first season was a setup of who these people are, and in the second season the writers didn't waste any time with further complicating storylines.
With the end of Glee quickly approaching, how do you imagine your character Jesse St. James' story concluding?
I don’t know if I'm back on yet. It's a possibility. I'd like to see Jesse St. James in New York with Rachel Berry [played by Lea Michele]. I think they would do well in New York together; they would motivate each other.