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Neil Patrick Harris Wanted the Heels Higher for Broadway’s ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’

You could forgive John Cameron Mitchell for feeling a sense of ownership of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch,” the 1998 musical he and Stephen Trask wrote. He also created the title role, and played it in the subsequent movie version.

But Mitchell had nothing but raves for Neil Patrick Harris, who stars in the Broadway production that opened April 22. Harris raises the bar, he said. And he didn’t just mean that figuratively.

“I always wanted the heels lower when I played Hedwig,” he said. “Neil wanted them higher!”

Yes, he did, Harris confirmed after the opening night perf. “I feel like the feminine form is aggressively changed by how high your heels are, by how you have to change your center of gravity,” he said.

Dancing isn’t so hard in those heels, he added, although it was at first. So was just walking. “I had no idea how to move my hips, or what shoulder should move first,” he said. He learned how to “stick your ass out,” he added, and how to put his hand on his hip higher than a man would. “It’s the kind of thing people normally play around with in their bathroom at two in the morning.  I get to do it onstage.”

Like Mitchell, director Michael Mayer also praised the actor’s showmanship. Mayer was the original director attached to the rock musical back in the day, before he had to step away to pursue another project. But the helmer remained connected to the creative team, and remembered the struggle of getting the show on the boards the first time.

“No one wanted it,” he recalled. “The theater people didn’t want rock ‘n’ roll, and the clubs didn’t want theater.”

Now here’s Hedwig, opening on Broadway at last. Industry-savvy opening nighters were delighted by a gag in the show that imagined Hedwig scoring the fabled Belasco Theater by, uh, servicing Shubert Organization exec Robert E. Wankel (who was there in the crowd that night).

Surely Harris doesn’t make cracks about Bob Wankel every night? He does, it turns out. Blow job humor always gets a laugh, the actor noted.

Besides, there’s a punny allusion in the name “Wankel.”

“I hadn’t thought of that,” Harris said. ” I think you’ve just given me another two minutes!”

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