"Never in my wildest dreams would I thought this would ever happen," Criss told Playbill.com following his first performance at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre. "I'm taking it in my stride and just trying to give it my all and be thankful. This doesn't happen every day."
Criss, who first drew attention for his portrayal of Harry Potter in the YouTube hit "A Very Potter Musical," succeeded Daniel Radcliffe, who exited the production Jan. 1. Although Criss said that it was—at first—"intimidating" taking over for Potter himself, Radcliffe offered support and even some advice.
"He gave me a joke that Robert Morse started when he originated the role [of Finch on Broadway in 1961]," said Criss.
The joke was passed down to Matthew Broderick, who starred as Finch in the 1995 Broadway revival, and to Radcliffe, who opened the production in March of last year. "We used it tonight," Criss continued. "It worked!"
As for Criss' first performance in How to Succeed—which also welcomed Emmy, Golden Globe and Grammy Award winner Beau Bridges—director Rob Ashford was more than impressed. "Everyone did a great job, but Darren and Beau did an amazing job," Ashford told Playbill.com. "To take two weeks of rehearsal and go out there in this machine that's been running for a year and just fold in as beautifully as they did… They did a beautiful job." Even though the "Glee" star is only scheduled for a three-week window (through Jan. 22), Ashford admitted that Criss' scheduling conflicts were not alarming when taking him aboard the production.
"He's the perfect Finch," said Ashford. "His energy is right. His spirit is right. He follows in the mold that Daniel made—the mold of the younger Finch…. a Finch who's enthusiastic and eager and front-footed. Dan established that, and Darren certainly is that as well."
Ashford concluded, "I would have taken him for two weeks. I would've taken him for one week—anybody that terrific playing the part."
The Al Hirschfeld Theatre is located at 302 West 45th Street. For tickets, visit Telecharge.com.
To meet Criss and Bridges after their first performance, look below: