When Neil Patrick Harris signed on to host the Tony Awards for the fourth time (just one time less than record-holder Dame Angela Lansbury) he knew he wanted to go “Bigger!”
The result was a 7-minute musical marathon with music and lyrics by Bring It On: The Musical collaborators Tom Kitt and Lin-Manuel Miranda, choreography by Tony-winner Rob Ashford, and appearances by members of almost every cast on Broadway at the time—including Mike Tyson, who debuted his one-man show, Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth, on Broadway the previous year.
While speaking to Harris for our 11 Questions feature, The A.V. Club’s editorial coordinator Gwen Ihnat couldn’t resist the chance to ask the actor about the performance that garnered him a solid 1-minute standing ovation from the Tony’s audience at Radio City Musical Hall that evening, and repeat viewings on YouTube over the years by multiple AVC staffers. “It wasn’t the hardest thing [I’ve done,] but it was certainly the most exhilarating,” Harris tells Ihnat on the latest episode of The A.V. Club’s podcast Push The Envelope. “And I will say that I’m not sure how it all happened, because there were so many things that could have easily gone wrong: magic tricks that didn’t work in the dress rehearsal, hoops that were going to probably be a terrible mess if I didn’t lift my leg high enough, quick changes that could have gone wrong. There was a lot at stake. But it’s the Tonys and it’s Broadway and people do that kind of nonsense, or at least used to, eight times a week. So, I was thrilled to represent.”
In addition to Harris’ 11 Questions interview, Ihnat and editor-in-chief Patrick Gomez spend this week’s Push The Week episode discussing the behind-the-scenes details that led to “Bigger!” and why it works so well.
“Apparently, they only were able to rehearse it in full the day of the telecast and only did it like one or two times. And the only time it ever went perfectly was the live performance, which is impressive for many reasons that were about to get into,” Gomez says on the podcast. “At one point, Neil Patrick Harris was going to get the mayor of New York to be on a trapeze swing. There was going to be a Wicked element to it. They were going to had an Elphaba line, but unfortunately, they couldn’t get the Wicked people involved. The rehearsal schedule for this was apparently insane, where they were teaching the little dance moments to the separate groups of people that were in different parts. They’d have time to teach them for like 12 minutes and then they’d run it twice, once or twice.”
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