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Neil Patrick Harris on his fourth time at bat as Tony Awards host

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Tony Awards Neil Patrick Harris
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

The phrase “Hardest Working Man in Show Business” gets bandied about in almost constant force these days, but hardly anyone earns it quite like Neil Patrick Harris. Not only did he just agree to host this September’s Emmy Awards, but he will be returning for a fourth stint as host to the Tony Awards, airing this Sunday on CBS. (“I can finally get it right,” he says.) And this is a guy who already stars on a hit TV series, has The Smurfs 2 in theaters next month, and is raising twin 2-year-olds (with partner David Burtka), yet still has time for a little soft-shoe and showtunes. Harris is undaunted and “hoping it’s the supersized Tonys — lots of children and animals,” he says. “What could possibly go wrong?”

After a couple of years at the Beacon Theatre, the Broadway bash returns to the roomier Radio City Music Hall. “There’s lots of great actors this year, and I’m really looking forward to the larger space. At the Beacon, there was no usable wing space or Rockettes — very devoid of Rockettes,” he says.

The leading nominees this year include Kinky Boots (13 nods), Matilda the Musical (12), and Pippin (10), and given Harris’s penchant for magic, it goes without saying Pippin might be right up his alley, but he’s been trying to get to everything on the Great White Way before the big night. “We’re trying to figure out how to rep the season well, yet not feel redundant. It’s a really great crop [of shows]. It’s interesting to see how different they all are. For example, Matilda is so different from Kinky Boots, which was actually my nickname in prison.”

Harris will not mention rooting for anyone in particular so as to stay properly unbiased. He does counter that “it’s a nice guessing game this year,” since nobody foresees a Book of Mormon-type sweep this year. But is he looking to make a return to the stage, something his legion of fans have been waiting for? (He has not appeared on Broadway in a long run since the 2004 revival of Assassins). “I would love that. We work our butts off [at the Tonys] and it’s all over in one night. I have great admiration for those who do it eight times a week.”

But one crucial question remains: who would make the better babysitter for Harris’ 2-year-olds: Matilda’s Miss Trunchbull or Miss Hannigan from best-musical-revival nominee Annie? “I say Trunchbull — if Hannigan was over [our home], our liquor-cabinet would be empty.”

Join us (Pippin reference!) this Sunday night as senior editor Thom Geier and myself liveblog the 2013 Tony Awards, beginning at 8 p.m. ET.

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