Josh Groban eyes Broadway, says he's in that 'headspace'

NEW YORK -- Josh Groban will be following up his album of Broadway standards by doing it for real -- singing on a Broadway stage for the first time.

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"I was kind of in that headspace to begin with," Groban said Monday. "There was this nice stars-aligning-thing happening."

Groban will play Pierre in "Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812," a musical by Dave Malloy that dramatizes a 70-page melodrama at the centre of Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace." It starts on Broadway in September.

Groban has been offered parts on Broadway before but timing never worked out. This time, he'll be ending a tour in support of an album -- "Stages," for which he just earned a Grammy Award nomination for best traditional pop vocal album -- that coincidentally has him singing musical theatre hits from "The Phantom of the Opera," "Les Miserables," "Into The Woods" and "A Chorus Line," among others.

Since he made his debut in 2001, Groban's soaring anthems and soothing yet stirring ballads have sold millions of albums.

The sung-through musical "Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812" premiered at New York City's Ars Nova in 2012 and is currently playing at the American Repertory Theater at Harvard University.

He caught an off-Broadway version in 2013 and vowed that if he ever returned to his musical theatre roots it would be for "the right piece of music."

Rachel Chavkin, who has directed previous versions of the show, is directing the new Broadway-bound version. Additional casting, design team and theatre will be announced later. (Phillipa Soo, who played a dynamite Natasha, is currently in "Hamilton.")

By the time the "Great Comet" makes it to New York again, it will have changed a great deal since its earlier off-Broadway lives, which included strobe lights, actors racing about and smoke pouring as dance music competed with traditional Russian folk music.

The show reached for an immersive experience by trying to erase the line between audience and performer. A full Russian-themed meal -- including vodka -- was served and audience members were asked to pass along love letters or interact with actors.

Groban said he was "totally transfixed" by the intimate production when he saw it and wants to "pass along that magic." On Broadway, stage designer Mimi Lien will put many seats onstage, let actors move around the theatre and there will be some sort of food and drink on offer.

The show centres on a bright young thing, Natasha, who falls for one man, only to be seduced later by another.

Groban said he's looking forward to the sense of comradery that comes with joining a Broadway cast. He said he'll protect his voice for the grueling eight-shows-a-week rhythm.

"My regiment is not going to be any different. At this point in my career, I've learned how to take care of myself. I'll just try not to burn the candle at both ends and try not to have real vodka on the stage every night."


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