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Neil Patrick Harris: 'Company' Man

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In April, the Stephen Sondheim musical Company, about a bachelor celebrating his 35th birthday, opened for an exclusive four-performance engagement in New York City. On June 15, a filmed version of the live show, starring Neil Patrick Harris, Christina Hendricks, and Stephen Colbert, will premiere in movie theaters across the country. We spoke to Harris about his latest adventure on the stage.

Whose idea was it to have this version of Company play in movie theaters?
Lonny Price, the director. When you have a short-form performance, it’s hard to get a ticket. So we recorded the Friday- and Saturday-night performances, mixed them together, and got the best of both shows.

This production wasn’t fully staged, but it was much more than just a reading before an audience.
It was pitched to everyone as a semi-staged production, which we figured meant scripts in hand, go to mic number three, say your lines. But it’s a full production. There’s a giant orchestra. It was all put together in a ridiculously short amount of time, there was lots of choreography, lots of memorization. [Laughs] We had no idea.

With all of your different work schedules, did the cast rehearse together?
The first time we ran the whole thing was the dress rehearsal, which was the afternoon of the first performance — when we were reviewed! I hope there’s something exciting about the fact that you sense a hint of panic in everyone. We were all going off gut instinct.

Some people were surprised that Stephen Colbert was in the cast.
Stephen Colbert is absolutely amazing. I saw a Colbert Report when he interviewed Stephen Sondheim. He had such a clear knowledge of theater and he sang a hilarious version of ”Send in the Clowns.” When Company came to be and his name was part of the mix, it made perfect sense.

Is it safe to say that singing comes more naturally to you than dancing?
I’ve always sung, always been a big proponent of live theater. But I’ve never taken a dance class, ever, which I should at this point. Thankfully, a lot of the things I’ve done — Glee, awards shows — are just one-offs. You don’t have to learn a lot of choreography.

Do you play show tunes for your kids?
No, we’re all into Disney-theme-park music right now. I think I’m trying to brainwash them because that’s how I was raised. They’re almost 7 months old, they don’t even speak, but they could probably hum ”Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me.” I love that stuff.

You’re returning as the host of the Tony Awards on June 12. How many Spider-Man jokes will you include?
I’ve pared my seven and a half hours of Spider-Man jokes to a lean two hours and 42 minutes, so I’m hoping there will be room for a couple production numbers and an acceptance speech or two. The rest is going to be all Spider-Man comedy, all the time.

Last year’s host, Sean Hayes, made out with Kristin Chenoweth on stage. Who’s at the top of your make-out wish list so you can one-up him?
I’m torn between Judith Light and Patti LuPone. But…I’ll say Judith Light.

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