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‘Hamilton’ Actor to Take Over for Josh Groban in Broadway’s ‘Great Comet’

Variety logo Variety 2/15/2017 Gordon Cox
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Okieriete Onaodowan, the actor who gained notice as the originator of the role of Hercules Mulligan in “Hamilton,” will take over for Josh Groban in the Broadway musical “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” when Groban departs the production in July.

Groban, the singer who has amassed a robust fan base with his recording and touring career, has long been set for a midsummer exit from the musical he helped turn into one of the fall season’s strongest sellers. Whether the show can sustain its healthy numbers in the wake of his departure remains an open question: Although Onaodowan has attracted fans from his turn in “Hamilton,” he doesn’t have the same profile as Groban, whose fanbase extends well beyond a core of theater avids.

Often called “Oak” along Broadway, Onaodowan played both Hercules Mulligan and James Madison in the original cast of “Hamilton,” and also appeared in Broadway’s “Rocky.” He’s played Kristoff in workshops and readings of Disney’s brewing stage adaptation of “Frozen,” although that production’s out-of-town tryout, set to premiere in Denver around the same time that the actor will appear in “Great Comet,” suggests he won’t necessarily star in the Broadway bow. In “Great Comet,” he’ll appear opposite Denee Benton, playing Natasha to his Pierre.

“Great Comet,” which has regularly grossed more than $1 million per week since it began performances in October, is heading into the race for the Tony Awards as a likely contender alongside “Dear Evan Hansen,” the fall season’s other big seller.

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