Neil Patrick Harris has come a long way since he starred as the young doctor Doogie Howser more than two decades ago. Now he's directing a production of "RENT" at the Hollywood Bowl, starring Vanessa Hudgens and Aaron Tveit. He took time out of a recent rehearsal to talk with KPCC's Alex Cohen.
Harris says the first musical he ever saw as a kid was a production of "Annie" in Alamogordo, New Mexico. "And it was a production where when they started singing the songs, they pressed play on the CD and lip-syched to the musical," he says of the odd experience.
His production of "RENT" at the Hollywood Bowl will feature no lip-synching whatsoever. To fill the massive venue, they've actually added ten singers to the traditional fifteen member cast.
"RENT," written by Jonathan Larson and directed by Michael Greif, originally opened at Broadway’s Nederlander Theatre on April 29, 1996, following a history making, sold-out, extended limited engagement at off-Broadway’s New York Theatre Workshop.
The musical went on to win every major best musical award, including the Tony Award, as well as the Pulitzer Prize for drama. With 5,124 performances, "RENT" is the ninth longest running show in Broadway history.
"'RENT' is a nice fit for me because I was in the second national tour of the show and experienced it as an actor," Harris said. Though they haven't had too much time to rehearse this production, Harris says he feels comfortable at the helm. "I could speak short hand having witnessed it all before."
Appearing in "RENT" at the Hollywood Bowl as Mimi is Vanessa Hudgens, best known for her breakout role in the "High School Musical" series as Gabriella Montez, for which she received numerous nominations and awards. Nicole Scherzinger, solo artist, lead singer of The Pussycat Dolls, and this season’s winner of "Dancing With the Stars," will play Maureen.
Emmy winner and Grammy nominee Wayne Brady plays Tom Collins. Aaron Tveit, from Broadway’s Pulitzer Prize winning Next to Normal and the upcoming feature film Howl plays Roger. Skylar Astin, who played Georg in Spring Awakening on Broadway, plays Mark.
"I'm thrilled with the cast," Harris says. "With this gang, I'm hoping to provide an eclectic mix of experienced "RENT" performers, amazing new talent, and recognizable faces in unexpected roles.
"Of paramount importance to me, though, is honoring the piece as a whole — the music, the vibe, the creator — so that those who have never experienced "RENT" will be able to appreciate it alongside die-hard fans."
Tickets are now on sale, and may be purchased online at HollywoodBowl.com, by phone at 323-850-2000, in person at the Hollywood Bowl box office, or by calling Ticketmaster at 800.745.3000, and at all Ticketmaster outlets.
Watch a video from the rehearsal: