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Jonathan Groff wins Tony Award for Best Actor for Merrily We Roll Along

Jonathan Groff wins Tony Award for Best Actor for Merrily We Roll Along

Jonathan Groff at 77th Tony Awards
Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Tony Awards Productions

This was Jonathan Groff's third time being nominated for a Tony Award, and his first time winning!

Jonathan Groff is now a Tony winner… officially!

On Sunday, June 16, the Out cover star and Merrily We Roll Along performer won the 2024 Tony Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical.

This pretty competitive category had Groff beating out fellow nominees Brody Grant for The Outsiders, Dorian Harewood for The Notebook, Brian d'Arcy James for Days of Wine and Roses, and Olivier Award winner Eddie Redmayne for Cabaret at the Kit Kat Club.

Groff said during his acceptance speech:

"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 letting me dress up like Mary Poppins when I was three. Thank you for letting me act out scenes from I Love Lucy on my 10th birthday. 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," he continued, "my family knew the lifesaving power of fanning the flame of a young person's passions without judgment. I walked through life with an open heart because you let me know that I could. Thank you to all of my teachers back in Pennsylvania, especially Sue Fisher, who told me I could do this for a living."

Groff added, "I moved to New York exactly 20 years ago this year and I got a job waiting tables and became a volunteer for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids. All I wanted was to be a part of this community. A thank you to everyone involved in Spring Awakening who not only made that dream come true, but also inspired me to come out of the closet when I was 23. I'm now 39 and musical theater is still saving my soul."

"Maria Friedman, thank you for letting me be your Franklin Shepherd in this production of Merrily and allowing me the chance to accept respect and express both the lightest and darkest parts of myself," he went on. "Daniel Radcliffe and Lindsay Mendez, you are more than old friends, you are soul mates, and I'm looking forward to watching each other change for the rest of our lives. Thank you to every member of the extraordinary cast for lifting this Merrily into the spiritual stratosphere."

Groff concluded his emotional speech, "And finally, I just want to say that 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. I thank you and thank you so much for this honor."

The cast of Merrily We Roll Along, including fellow nominees Lindsay Mendez and Daniel Radcliffe, also performed a number from the musical at the ceremony.

This was Groff's third time being nominated for a Tony and his first time winning. In 2007, at the beginning of his stardom, he was nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role in a Musical for playing troubled teen Melchior Gabor in Spring Awakening. He was subsequently nominated for Best Actor in a Featured Role for playing King George III in Hamilton.

In his recent Out cover story, Groff discussed his role in the musical as Franklin Shepard — a talented musical composer who becomes a Hollywood producer.

"No one wants to really make space for Frank's darkness or his pain… that feels so familiar to me," Groff said in the interview. "It feels very gay. And then there's also something about it that feels quite American of like, just… take a little trip, and then you'll come back, and you work, and everything will be fine. But there's not a real investigation of sadness or despair."

Groff's approach clearly worked, as he channeled that darkness and pain into a well-deserved Tony win. Congratulations!

30 Years of Out100Out / Advocate Magazine - Jonathan Groff and Wayne Brady

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Mey Rude

Mey Rude is a journalist and cultural critic who has been covering queer news for a decade. The transgender, Latina lesbian lives in Los Angeles with her fiancée.

Mey Rude is a journalist and cultural critic who has been covering queer news for a decade. The transgender, Latina lesbian lives in Los Angeles with her fiancée.