NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — For nine years, Neil Patrick Harris played unabashed ladies’ man Barney Stinson on the smash CBS comedy “How I Met Your Mother.”
As CBS 2’s Dana Tyler reported, Harris’ Broadway comeback role could not be more different. He is appearing as a German transgender punk rock singer in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” – a longtime cult favorite that debuted in 1998, written by John Cameron Mitchell with music by Stephen Trask.
And believe it or not, three-time Emmy Award winner Harris believes Hedwig and Barney Stinson actually have something in common.
“Playing Barney Stinson required a level of fearlessness that I don’t really possess as Neil, but as an actor he had to possess because he was sort of the fifth wheel, guns a-blazing guy that wanted a crazy adventure. So I got to do that for a long time,” Stinson said. “And that plays into Hedwig’s life. She’s fearless. She’s like a shooting star, that she’s terrified that that light is going to extinguish.”
Harris said hosting the Tony Awards the past four years helped him prepare for Hedwig, because the Hedwig character is also performing a live show where anything can happen.
Meanwhile, coming back to Broadway also meant leaving Los Angeles. Harris said he and his partner, David Burtka, and their twins of nearly 4 years old, have been enjoying living back in New York.
“We bought a brownstone that we’re almost done with, and so we’re going to be moving shortly, so we’re still a little bit in transition,” Harris said. “The kids are loving the weather and the parks, and soccer class and gymnastics, and David’s very anxious to start acting again himself.”
The couple was styling in the New York spotlight at their first Costume Institute Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They wore Tom Browne tuxedoes, which Harris said were crazy fun.
“You don’t wear those outfits on a red carpet to a movie. You wear it when you’re going to the Met Ball or in a Cirque du Soleil show,” Harris said, “and so we wore them with pride and it was super fun.”
Whoever their tuxedo designed is for Tony night, Harris will have his blue nail-polished fingers crossed. “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” is up for eight Tony awards, and Harris was involved in the hiring in the Hedwig production from early on.
“These are my children, so if I win, it will be crazy and it will be great on a mantle,” he said. “If they win, I will feel so proud out of the work they have done.”
“Hedwig and the Angry Inch” tells the story of a transgender woman who was born a boy named Hansel in Communist East Berlin. Hansel falls in love with an American soldier named Luther Robinson and they decide to marry, so Hansel’s mother finds a doctor to perform a sex change that ends up being botched.
Hedwig goes on to move to Junction City, Kansas. After separating from her husband, Hedwig goes on to form a punk rock band. Hedwig tells the story of her life in an extended monologue composed of both songs and spoken words.
Among the best known numbers in the musical is “The Origin of Love,” which is based upon Aristophanes’ speech in Plato’s Symposium in ancient Greece. The song claims that three sexes of people once existed – “children of the sun” composed of two men attached, “children of the earth” with two women attached, and “children of the moon” with a man and woman attached. But angry gods spilt each of the beings in two, and the separated halves spend their lives pining for their complement.
The musical debuted off Broadway in 1998 – first at the Westbeth Theatre Center at 55 Bethune St., then at the Jane Street Theatre at 113 Jane St., both in the West Village. Writer Mitchell originally played the title character, and also portrayed Hedwig in a 2001 film adaptation.
The Broadway run starring Harris can be seen at the Belasco Theatre, 111 W. 44th St.
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