Neil Patrick Harris returns to the Broadway stage Monday night for a concert performance of Assassins, the Stephen Sondheim musical that won the 2004 Tony Award for Best Musical Revival. The benefit reunites the 2004 cast (the show first debuted on Broadway in 1990), including Harris, Tony-winner Michael Cerveris, and True Blood’s Denis O’Hare. But while this show is only for one night, Harris tells EW that he hopes the show is just the start of more theater work for him in the near future.
“My worry is I’m going to do this one night and then be dying to get back on stage and do a full production,” Harris says. He hopes the future might hold even edgier stage work. “I’d love to do something very against type. I’d love to revive something dirty and raw … to do something radical like Hedwig, something that would really be outside the box.”
Harris’s hit show, How I Met Your Mother, is well into its eighth season, and CBS execs haven’t yet decided if it will see a ninth. Either way, Harris is already starting to think about what he’ll do next.
“Our [Harris and partner David Burtka] plan after How I Met Your Mother wraps up the series is to head east. David’s a New York theater guy, he’s done Edward Albee and Gypsy on Broadway, so he’s clamoring to get back. I think that’s a great place to have our kids raised and go to school,” Harris says.
Of tonight’s Assassins concert benefit, Harris says he’s excited to reunite with his co-stars (“It’s just going to be group hugs all around,” he says) and added the cast has remained in touch over the past eight years. Harris reprises his role as Lee Harvey Oswald and the Balladeer, but there is one role in the show — which follows the stories of the most famous assassins (and would-be assassins) in history — that he wouldn’t mind trying out. “I would say John Wilkes Booth, that’s such a great part, but Michael Cerveris was fantastic and won a Tony for it, so it’s hard to compete with that. I’m pleased with my part.”
Harris adds that his second role as The Balladeer makes the show unique. “The Balladeer gets to be one of the audience… so I enjoyed that, breaking the fourth wall, and then becoming the most infamous assassin of all, I think was a nice theatrical ploy.”
He also notes that the current political environment in the country makes it more ready to receive a show like Assassins than it was in 2004. “The original production was delayed because it was supposed to happen right after Sept. 11, which seemed an inappropriate time to, you know, ponder the rational behind assassinations of presidents, and then when the actual show did end up happening it was during an election cycle, so I think it was short-lived again because at that time it was a little hard to put Assassins on billboards and buses,” Harris says. “It was a short-lived little gem of a show.”
EW reviewer Scott Brown said of the 2004 production: “The uniformly sensational cast (particularly Denis O’Hare as Charles Guiteau, the pious, peripatetic failure who killed President James Garfield) takes that anarchic-yet-melodic energy and runs with it.”
The benefit is being held at Studio 54 — where the revival opened on Broadway — and proceeds will go to the Roundabout Theater Company’s musical program. Tony-winner Joe Mantello returns to direct.