Jonathan Groff Chats About Deathtrap, "Glee," "The Conspirator" and "Twelve Thirty"

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26 Jan 2011

Jonathan Groff
Jonathan Groff
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Jonathan Groff, the young singing actor who received a Tony nomination for his impassioned performance as the questioning student Melchior in the Tony-winning Spring Awakening, recently completed a six-month run in Matthew Warchus' London production of Deathtrap, Ira Levin's thriller about rival writers in a country house.

Prior to his final weekend in the production, which co-starred veteran actors Simon Russell Beale and Estelle Parsons, Groff explained to that his role in the London revival came about while he was "out in L.A. doing 'Glee.' My agent sent me the script with a little cover letter that said, 'It's six months in London. Matthew Warchus is directing, and Simon Russell Beale is starring in it,' and he said, 'Will you fly yourself back to New York to audition for this show next week?' And, I didn't even read the script. Based on London and Simon and Matthew, I said, 'Yes, I'll fly myself back for this audition.' I read the play on the plane and loved it, and then auditioned for it and got it and came over here on July 10th, and I've been here since then, and I leave on Sunday morning!"

"One of the most exciting things about doing the play is that [the audience] screams every day," Groff said. "Deathtrap is such an entertainment for the audience. It's so created for them to make them react, whether it's to laugh or scream or jump or sigh. You also have those great moments when …the audience gets ahead of your character on stage, and you get that [reaction of], 'Oh! Mmm! Oooo!' … It's really fun to play because it's just so satisfying to hear the audience making all those different sounds."

Although the production was well-received by the critics — The Evening Standard's Henry Hitchings said the play's "brand of unapologetically giddy entertainment makes it sure to be a hit" — Groff feels that a New York transfer is unlikely. "There was [talk of Broadway] when we first opened. There was buzzing about, 'Oh, this might go to New York!,' and producers were coming over to look at it. I mean, who knows? Anything can happen, but I feel like if we were going, we would have found out by now, so I don't think that it's happening.

Simon Russell Beale and Jonathan Groff in Deathtrap promo art
photo by Hugo Glendinning

"Maybe it will happen in years to come. I'm sure that it probably will because as we've been playing it over here, you can hear when there are Americans in the audience because they respond to certain American jokes …[since] it takes place in Westport [Connecticut]. So, some days we'll come offstage and Simon will say, 'Oh, there's Americans in the audience today. We could tell.' And it's so clear that the American audiences would, I think, just totally eat it up. But some day I'm sure it'll come back around. It's just such a fun play."

When asked how life as a London theatre actor differed from being part of the Broadway community, the Theatre World Award winner answered, "I would say the biggest difference for me is that there's just less bells and whistles over here than there is in New York. The meet-and-greet on the first day of rehearsal isn't as much of a production as it is when you do a play or a musical on Broadway; there's less press. The audiences don't stand up as often as they do in New York. It's a little more subdued... I think, partially, this has to do with the fact that theatres in the West End are spread out, whereas in New York, generally, all the Broadway theatres are within a 12-block radius of each other, so there's less of a feeling of community in the British theatre. There's certainly a British theatre community, but you feel it just a little bit less than you do back home in New York. But as far as rehearsing the play and performing the play and doing the work, it's exactly the same."


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