‘Merrily We Roll Along’ Broadway Stars Get Spiritual

The 2023 edition of Variety’s annual theater breakfast was all about the Business of Broadway. But that didn’t keep things from getting spiritual, too.

In a panel discussion featuring the starry cast of “Merrily We Roll Along” — held during the Business of Broadway breakfast Oct. 2 and now available as part of the new episode Variety’s theater podcast, “Stagecraft” — Jonathan Groff explained how theater can become more than a job for him and his castmates, Daniel Radcliffe and Lindsay Mendez.

Listen to this week’s “Stagecraft” podcast below:

The key is the eight-performances-a-week schedule. “You repeat the same thing over and over and over again. It can’t help but imprint on your soul in some way, if you’re really open to it,” Groff said. “It can change you from the inside out. It’s like a yoga practice or going to the gym or something. So I’ve always been really intentional about what to choose or what to be a part of.”

Radcliffe, meanwhile, shared affectionate memories of Richard Griffiths, the “Equus” co-star whom he considered a mentor for his theater work, and of his “Harry Potter” co-star Michael Gambon. Meanwhile, Mendez, a Tony winner for her performance in “Carousel,” reminisced about “Merrily” composer Stephen Sondheim and the time she got to know him, slightly, when she starred in a 2014 revival of an early Sondheim musical, “Saturday Night.”

“He would sit on the steps every night and watch the show and just cry and laugh,” Mendez said. “It was really sweet, the nostalgia he had for that period of his writing.”

In addition to the “Merrily We Roll Along” conversation, the new episode of “Stagecraft” highlights a panel discussion with five producers involved in some of the biggest shows of the Broadway season: Kristin Caskey (“The Wiz”), Patrick Catullo (“Merrily We Roll Along,” “Here Lies Love,” “Gutenberg! The Musical!”), Greg Nobile (“An Enemy of the People”), Leslie Odom, Jr. (“Purlie Victorious”) and Fiona Rudin (“How to Dance in Ohio”).

All five shared their thoughts on collaboration and attracting new audiences; many of them also shared the philosophies that guided their choices in what they produce.

“If something sounds like a bad idea at first, that’s the thing I’m the most interested in,” Rudin said. “It means my brain is having trouble processing it and it’s something really new.”

“Literally the only reason that I do this is for new audiences,” Catullo added. “It’s about the work that you put out there.”

For his part, Nobile (“Slave Play”) said he follows the creatives he works with. “If we’re not getting into projects that are completely artist-led and we start to try to follow the money, then it’s not gonna work,” he explained.

To hear the entire conversation, listen at the link above or download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on podcast platforms including Apple PodcastsSpotify and the Broadway Podcast NetworkNew episodes of “Stagecraft” are released every other week.

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