Thanks to Holly, I’ve added 13 HQ photos of Jonathan at the ATC Uncovered Launch/Spring Awakening Reunion event earlier this week!
Frozen works on essentially every level, but perhaps the times it’s at its best is when playing off of the very familiar tropes of the princess subgenre of fairy tales. [hypable]
And this is a movie that should be enjoyed, with its themes of hard-won acceptance and self-confidence. It’s not flawless and it requires at least some tolerance for show tunes, but “Frozen” is a real treat. [Florida Today]
It’s hard to find any flaws in Disney “Frozen”. The visuals are great, it’s an engaging story, the characters are interesting and fun, and the music is stupendous. [Attractions Magazine]
As far as animated movies go, it doesn’t get that much better than “Frozen.” It’s a new Disney classic. [Indiewire]
Disney’s “Frozen” works beautifully as a timeless fairy tale with a modern twist. As Walt himself might have put it: Here is a movie sure to captivate children, delight adults, and melt the hearts of audiences of all ages. [Chicago Sun-Times]
A thoroughly involving story — both modern and timeless — Frozen embraces the classic Disney tradition, while avoiding stock conventions and formulaic elements. [USA Today]
The classic Disney animated films – the really classic ones, like the films made when Walt Disney was still alive – all possessed an uncanny ability to capture childhood emotions that were not-so-secretly also shared by adults. … Frozen is one of the few recent films to capture that classic Disney spirit. [Vulture]
Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen,” “Frozen” is a great big snowy pleasure with an emotionally gripping core, brilliant Broadway-style songs and a crafty plot. [NY Post]
Better prepare yourself for many days’ worth of running around singing, “Let it go, let it go,” because there’s no way you’re walking out of “Frozen” without a pep in your step, massive smile on your face and the desire to build a snowman. [Shockya]
One of the surest signs of progress in 2013: Jonathan Groff, an out gay actor, who has already conquered the stage (“Spring Awakening”), and a hit television gig (“Glee”), is moving up to leading roles (“Frozen” and “Looking”). No one is complaining about it or suggesting that he shouldn’t be playing a romantic lead in a Disney blockbuster! Not that anyone could make a convincing case against this engaging actor, his stellar pipes and the sly spark in his eyes, if they tried.
In person, at the Waldorf Astoria, where we sat down to talk about his role in FROZEN, the new Disney animated musical (it plays like a fusion of The Snow Queenand Wicked), he was less the intimidating STAR type than the charismatic ‘boy next door’. He gushed about the opportunity to sing as a Disney character even though he only gets one song. It’s a memorable comic duet… with himself; he plays a lonely mountain man whose only companion is a reindeer and he provides both voices.
NR: How many voices did you try out for the reindeer?
JONATHAN GROFF: We did a bunch and sort of landed on that one. I loved that! That was the most fun I had in the booth. Because, you know, you normally do the scene and the reader reads the line and then you read the lines. But to do the whole scene as myself as Kristoff and then Kristoff as Sven was really trippy and fun.
NR: You’re already mostly alone doing voice work.
JG: Exactly. You really are just talking to yourself and playing a whole scene alone. It’s like ‘This is insane!’ [Laughter]
Let’s move back a bit and then jump forward to “Looking”. I had a friend who described your role in Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock as an “elfen sex god”
Wow. I’ll take it.
And then you played the very decadent god Dionysus in Shakespeare in the Park who drove men and women to the edge of madness. Do you think of yourself as a powerful erotic sex god?
No, I don’t! I don’t think of myself in any way, shape, or form as a sex god. It’s so funny when i was playing Michael Lang — I love “elfen sex god” as Michael Lang. That’s so interesting – I spent time with him, stayed with him up in Woodstock. I was just trying to capture his essence. I didn’t think about — as an actor what I’m learning more and more as time goes on is that the process of being in something is so different then what it actually ends up looking like. In playing Michael Lang I was just trying to play that character. And then when I saw the movie I was like ‘Oh wow, he’s like this whole thing I didn’t think about.’ As an actor you’re just trying to, like, play the scene.
Even in Frozen. you play the moment to moment and they rewrote it so many times and you see it the final product and you’re like ‘Oh wow. That’s what it looks like in the end.’ Especially In film and tv, you do all this work but it’s so not your medium because other people put it together.
Which final product, then, surprised you the most?
Frozen, actually. It changed so much over the year and a half we recorded it. At one point I was a hoarder with my sleigh and all the relationships were different. To see it come together in the way that it has is so surreal. Your voice as a Disney character to start with! I just think the message of this movie is so amazing to be passed down: of knowing what’s right and wrong and learning about love. The way love is addressed in this movie is so surprising to me when I saw it in the end and I feel so proud to be a part of that.
You’re the lead in HBO’s gay series “Looking” and you’re also in the adaptation of the seminal AIDS drama “The Normal Heart” and you’re out. So I have to ask…
Am I choosing on purpose?
No, not so much that but when a TV series takes off, as “Looking” very well might, it can become so culturally powerful. Do you feel pressure to be some sort of figurehead at this point?
Not really. I feel like getting “Normal Heart” and getting “Looking”… It was the projects that excited me. The fact that both obviously are gay projects is an added bonus. Obviously being out, being gay, it means even more to me that I’m getting to work on projects like that.
Whether or not things are well received, I put my head down and do the work. That’s been the way. My first Broadway show was called “In My Life” and it was a complete disaster and it was ripped apart in the reviews. And I saw how our company had to pull together and shut out the outside world to do the work. In “Spring Awakening” it was the opposite of that: greatest reviews, Tony Awards. And I saw, as well, that you had to shut out the outside view of what you were doing so you could do the best work. That was a really important lesson I learned early on. I’m aware of the importance that these are gay projects and of the fact that I’m out but when it comes to actually doing the work, I focus on the doing of the job, putting one foot in front of the other.
What’s next for you?
I don’t know. The show airs January 19th. After it airs, we’ll find out if it keeps going.
Your life is on hold.
A little bit, yeah. We’re having the best time. I was there yesterday in San Francisco. It’s a blast. It’s some of the most fun I’ve ever had on a job. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
I’ve added five MQ photos from a shoot Jonathan did earlier this year to the gallery.
Jonathan Groff likes his men “scrappy and adventurous”—at least the animated ones anyway. “I loved Aladdin,” Groff explains. “Aladdin came at the right time for me; when I was a little boy, and you had this scrappy, leading man that was funny and adventurous.”
When Groff spoke to Out about his role as Kristoff, the reclusive, working class mountain man in the new Disney animated movie Frozen, he was quick to clarify the most significant difference between Kristoff and his predecessors. “He’s not like your typical, skinny-legged jeans, Disney prince. He’s a little thicker, he’s got my thighs, and that was before they knew I was cast already,” he says, and laughs. “Maybe that’s how I got cast?”
With credits that include his Tony-nominated role as Melchior in Spring Awakening, as well as the television shows Glee and Boss, Groff will also star in the highly anticipated HBO show Looking—which showcases the lives of gay men living in modern-day San Francisco—that premieres in January 2014. “You can’t get more opposite than working on a Disney film and then doing this HBO show, and in weird ways, they inform each other,” Groff explains. “We improv-ed a lot on Frozen, trying to keep things alive and keep things real, and we certainly try to do that every day on [the Looking] set. Trying to keep things alive, keep things real.”
For Groff, this Disney voiceover role has been a fantasy since he was young. “Growing up, I used to be alone in my bedroom acting out Disney characters and doing the job is the same thing, except this time, it’s actually for a Disney movie.”
He admits he emulated popular Disney characters like Mary Poppins, Peter Pan, and finally Robin Hood—“I got progressively more masculine”—until he now finds himself portraying the manliest of Disney men to date. Kristoff, an ice deliveryman, is a silent type who spends all of his time alone with a reindeer named Sven.
Boys (or girls) fantasizing about cartoon princes shouldn’t expect the otter-cub of their dreams just yet, since Kristoff is lacking the one signature feature of any mountain man worthy of his Mukluks—a beard. It turns out the animators thought the facial hair was too much when paired with plucky protagonist Anna, voiced by Veronica Mars’ Kristen Bell.
“I think they did a test with him with a beard early on,” Groff explains, “But a beard felt too old. Suddenly he felt like her father, as opposed to her potential love interest.”
Groff is joined by Broadway stars Idina Menzel (Wicked, Rent), Santino Fontana (Cinderella, Billy Elliot), Josh Gad (Avenue Q, Book of Mormon), as well as Bell (who got her start on the stage in 2001’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer), which makes it appear to be a shift back towards theatrically trained actors after movie stars reigned in animated features since the mid-’90s. “I wonder if that’s a conscious choice, or it’s just whoever’s voice they like better?” Groff ponders. “I know I got cast in this after Idina and Kristen and a lot of the casting process for me was how my voice fit with Kristen, to see if it was a good combo.”
Whatever the reasoning, Groff agrees that stage actors are well-suited for the process of animated filmmaking. “I feel like coming from the theater, you do all those weird acting exercises in classes where you’re alone rolling around on the ground and pretending to be whatever you’re imagining and I think that that sort of supports this experience of vocally trying to find those characters.” And after two years of recording, a process of constant revision that he compares to being in previews in a Broadway show, and without ever even meeting his fellow castmates, he saw the movie come together. “It all crystallized,” he says. “Seeing them come at me every time with something better than what I thought was good before was really inspiring, and it was like, ‘Oh, wow! This is why these movies are so widely loved.’ ”
Described as “a dazzling verse romance by the precocious 24-year old author, responding to Revolution with a bloody tale of desire,” The Tragedy of Mr. Morn will be read Dec. 9. Translated by Thomas Karshan and Anastasia Tolstoy and directed by Ethan McSweeny, the reading will feature Tala Ashe, Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Corey Hawkins, Aaron Clifton Moten, David Greenspan and Tony Plana. The event will include a post-play discussion with Thomas Karshan.
Translated by Rodney Ackland, Too Clever By Half will be read Dec. 16. “An anarchic, side-splitting satire about a smooth-talking opportunist and his ruthless climb to the top,” the play’s reading will be directed by Tony nominee Daniel Sullivan and feature Marylouise Burke, Tony nominee Jonathan Groff (Spring Awakening), two-time Tony winner Stephen Spinella (Angels in America) and Tony nominee Tovah Feldshuh (Golda’s Balcony).
The season will also include Arden of Faversham, Crimes of Passion, The Country Wife and The Alcestiad.
A complete schedule, tickets and more information are available by calling (212) 352-3101 or visiting redbulltheater.com.
I’ve replaced several older sets of photos with HQ versions! I’ve also added a new set of candids from 2007 to the gallery.
Thanks to Raina for some of these
On Nov. 24, Tony Award nominee Jonathan Groff will take the stage at the Five Angels Theater to perform a one-night-only benefit concert for the 52nd Street Project. Titled Get Back, the show draws inspiration from both Groff’s childhood days and the mission of the 52nd Street Project — to let kids explore their lives through theatre arts. Musical direction is by Mary-Mitchell Campbell. In this exclusive rehearsal studio peek, Groff runs through a variety of tunes including “Pure Imagination,” “The Age of Not Believing” and, of course, “Get Back.” For info, visit www.52project.org.
In the Disney animated film “Frozen,” Jonathan Groff does the voice work for Kristoff, a rugged, slightly oafish outdoorsman. “It was so much fun playing that character,” says Groff, 28. “The movie turned out really well and my fascination with Disney kind of just went full circle with ‘Frozen.’” Groff, who’s also known for his work on “Glee,” has an extensive theater background and was nominated for a Tony Award for “Spring Awakening.” Born in Lancaster, Pa., Groff currently resides in San Francisco and would like to point out that the people on Twitter claiming to be him most definitely aren’t.
Q. Your “Frozen” character, Kristoff, is a mountain man. Are you an outdoorsman as well?
A. My mom’s a gym teacher and she and my dad were both athletes. So we were always an active family. Ever since we were little, we did long bike rides. I’m a runner and I hike and I love being outdoors and doing all that kind of stuff. But I’ve never been on a proper camping trip. I camped outdoors in our backyard! (Laughs) I’d love to take a week off and camp in Yellowstone. Maybe I could be a hardcore camper. But not the kind who doesn’t need an actual bathroom. So scratch the hardcore part. (Laughs)
Q. Do you like cold-weather destinations?
A. I do! Last year I went to Park City, Utah, with my family and we skied and stayed in a lodge. That was fun. I hadn’t skied in a while. My mom took me skiing when I was little. I was maybe in the fourth grade. A snowboarder hit me from behind! He was a grown man, so it hurt.
Q. What was the first trip you took as a child?
A. It was to Disney World when I was five years old. My mom did a 50-day countdown. Every day before the trip, she would videotape us and we could talk about our upcoming trip or sing a song from Disney. We were so excited. The trip lived up to our expectations 100 percent! I didn’t even mind waiting in the lines to go on the Peter Pan ride and everything. I have to say, I actually love waiting in lines at amusement parks with people who you like. It’s fun. I had a friend who came to visit me from London last year and we went to Disneyland. Anyhow, now here I am in a Disney movie.
Q. Are you recognized when you travel?
A. When I was on “Glee,” a lot of people recognized my character from the show. But I don’t really get recognized. I have that generic white boy look.
Q. Where is the most romantic destination?
A. I’ve honestly never had a romantic vacation. I need to change that right away!
Q. What are your top five cities?
A. I lived in Chicago shooting “Boss” for three months and it was gorgeous. But if I was going to place the cities in my favorite order, it’d be New York for sure. It’s my absolute favorite! Then Lancaster, Pa., Rome, San Francisco and Chicago.
Q. What makes a memorable vacation?
A. Being able to travel by yourself and feeling at home. I went to Rome by myself and just had the most incredible experience there. I went in the summer and it was so sexy and the food was great. I love sitting outside and people-watching. The vibe in the city was amazing. And then to visit the Sistine Chapel was mind blowing. I have to say that when I was in Rome, I ate my face off!
Q. Do you work out on the road?
A. Yeah. I work out like crazy. I run, lift weights and swim. I have to every day, because I gain weight really quickly and like I just said, I like to eat a lot! When I’m filming, I can only stuff my face in certain moments.
Q. Where have you traveled to that most reminded you of home?
A. I spent some time in Portland, Ore., and the mountains there reminded me of the mountains in Pennsylvania. It was so pretty with the leaves changing.
Q. When you go away, what are some of your must-have items?
A. Definitely an iPod, my phone charger, my Superman baseball hat and that’s it.
Q. What is your guilty pleasure when you’re on the road?
A. I just drink myself into oblivion with Diet Coke. I like the caffeine-free kind. I went off Diet Coke for 1-1/2 years and now I’m back on it. I try to do sparkling water but there’s nothing like Diet Coke. They didn’t pay me to say that. (Laughs)
Q. What is your best and/or worst vacation memory?
A. I remember going to the beach in Wildwood, N.J., every summer. One time, my grandmother was driving and she went the wrong way down a one-way street and almost got into an accident. We didn’t make contact and no one got hurt, so it was actually hilarious at the time. Later, she got Alzheimer’s so it was sad. But that’s certainly one memory that stands out.