PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Neil Patrick Harris, Stepping Into the High Heels of Hedwig and the Angry Inch

By Brandon Voss
15 Mar 2014

What can audiences learn from Hedwig?
NPH: No matter who you are or who you choose to be, you need to accept yourself. She's seeking wholeness, completion, and oneness, and I think that's universal. Everyone can blame who they aren't on specific circumstances: If only I'd been the prom king, if only I was skinnier, if only I had been her, everything would be better. Questions like that torment Hedwig. In the end, she comes to see that she's perfect in her imperfections.

What advice did John Cameron Mitchell give you on stepping into Hedwig's heels?
NPH: John told me that he was profoundly moved by the freedom of performing Hedwig, and I was relieved to hear how every show is different. Nothing is locked because it's essentially a band performing songs. Sometimes, if John was tired, he'd just sit down to sing. John once walked up the aisle to go pee in the middle of a song, and the audience thought it was part of the show. Even the choreography is a quiver of arrows, so I can do a jump kick if I'm feeling it, or I can just spin or throw something. I like the energy that comes from nobody, myself included, knowing what will happen next.

How did you and John meet?
NPH: I was a big fan of The Secret Garden and introduced myself to him at the stage door after seeing the matinee. He was lovely and invited me to have lunch with the cast at an Italian place up the street. So there I was sitting with John, Howard McGillin, Rebecca Luker, listening to them telling all these great stories, and then they invited me to come watch the evening performance from the wings. We remained friends after that.

You're a guest judge on the new season of "RuPaul's Drag Race." Did RuPaul advise you on your physical transformation?
NPH: Ru said that I should shave my eyebrows like he does because it saves a lot of time. But to be honest, I was a little tongue-tied around Ru, because she's the godmother of drag. I may reach out to her later for some tucking pointers.

Maybe some wig pointers too.
NPH: Well, we're not sticking to the iconic Hedwig wig you're probably thinking of. It's Broadway, so girl spent some money on some nicer wigs!

Thanks to "How I Met Your Mother," popular web shows like "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," and hit movies like "The Smurfs," you've gained a lot of new fans in the decade since your last Broadway appearance. The stage door at the Belasco is going to be crazy. Are you prepared?
NPH: I'm very appreciative of the fans, but I don't know that I'll have a lot of energy after the show to talk a lot, so I may have to do it relatively quickly and quietly. I certainly won't skip it, but I may go out there with a scarf around my neck and a dry-erase board.

You were a replacement in Broadway's Cabaret and Proof. Who would be your perfect replacement in Hedwig?
NPH: You know who would be pretty? Joseph Gordon-Levitt. And he can sing. But maybe I just want to see him dressed in a slip.

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Josh Radnor and Neil Patrick Harris in the 2004 Los Angeles production of The Paris Letter.
Photo by Craig Schwartz

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