Audra McDonald, Anthony Rapp, Norm Lewis and More Honored Neil Patrick Harris at Drama League Celebration

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04 Feb 2014

Neil Patrick Harris
Neil Patrick Harris
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

The Drama League's 30th Annual Musical Celebration of Broadway, which honored Golden Globe nominee and Emmy Award winner Neil Patrick Harris, was presented Feb. 3. Playbill.com was there.

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Stage, screen and television star Neil Patrick Harris stopped off at the Hotel Pierre on Fifth Avenue last night for the Drama League's Musical Tribute to Broadway Honoring Neil Patrick Harris. A stellar cast of 42 co-workers and friends made the tribute highly entertaining and sometimes quirky through a streamlined 80 minutes. Harris — who said in his curtain-call speech that he had just finished filming "How I Met Your Mother," and that morning began music rehearsals for the upcoming Broadway production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch — elicited affection and good will from the cast and the banquet hall-full of supporters.

The evening began with introductory remarks from Marc Kudisch and Becky Ann Baker, who shared the stage with Harris in the 2004 Broadway production of Assassins. They were followed by filmed tributes from absent colleagues, including Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Victor Garber, Christina Hendricks and John Cameron Mitchell (author and originator of Hedwig). David Hyde Pierce — filmed on a massage table — earned laughs by sending what he called "a congratulatory massage." While the donors feasted on racks of lamb, auctioneers came in and raised funds to support the Drama League's programs. Michael Mayer, director of Spring Awakening and the upcoming Hedwig (and past recipient of a Drama League fellowship), stepped in to acknowledge the loss to the community of Philip Seymour Hoffman.

The entertainment began with Zachary Levi, late of First Date, and dancers performing a rousing parody of Beauty and the Beast's "Be My Guest" called "Be My Host" (in a nod to Harris' ceaseless presence as awards show host). Next came Erin Davie, Paige Price and Chryssie Whitehead in the first of four Company numbers, "You Could Drive a Person Crazy." Norm Lewis stepped in to reprise "I Got Plenty o' Nuttin'" from Porgy and Bess, followed by Dan Finnerty singing a vocal version of the theme from "Doogie Howser, M.D." (here called "Doogie Howser, M.C."). Kate Jennings Grant, who appeared with Harris as replacement actors in the Broadway production of Proof, spoke about her unrequited crush on the actor and sang "With So Little to Be Sure Of" from Anyone Can Whistle.

Then came Muppets Telly Monster (Martin Robinson) and Abby Cadabby (Leslie Carrara-Rudolph), who appeared with Harris in his memorable guest role as the "Sesame Street" Shoe Fairy. Lawrence Clayton and James Barbour sang "Bring Him Home" from one of Harris' favorite musicals, Les Misérables. Kal Penn — Kumar in the "Harold and Kumar" films, which featured Harris — offered remarks, followed by "Side by Side by Side" from Cady Huffman, Krysta Rodriguez, Eddie Korbich and Malcolm Gets. Tim Gunn of "Project Runway" gave a nice speech saluting Harris as a public role model, after which Audra McDonald — last year's Drama League honoree — earned cheers with her heartfelt speech and her rapid-fire delivery of Frank Loesser's "Can't Stop Talking about Him."

David Burtka
photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Harris' interest in magic was acknowledged by Ed Alonzo doing a sketch called "The Cannon and the Brick," after which Stephen Colbert came on with a barrage of jokes ("You've got to give it to the Broncos, Seattle certainly did!") and an appreciative reminiscence of how Harris helped him get through his performance in the New York Philharmonic's Company. Katie Finneran, Erin Davie and Drew Gehling performed "Getting Married Today" from that Sondheim musical. Then came David Burtka — Harris' longtime partner, and the co-parent of twins — who serenaded the honoree with another Company song, "Marry Me a Little" — and appeared to actually and publically propose marriage.

Harris has had a long relationship with the musical Rent, so it was fitting to end the evening with 11 cast members (including Anthony Rapp) performing "Seasons of Love." As an encore, McDonald — calling herself "the whitest black person ever" — performed a capsule roundup of the show in rap style.

Evening was directed by Mayer and Johanna McKeon, with script and special material by Stephen Cole and choreography by Joann Hunter. Roger T. Danforth and Trevor Tamashiro produced, with music director David Evans leading three pieces from the piano.