Why Tony frontrunner Neil Patrick Harris loved tying at Drama Desk Awards

All 15 of our Tony Awards experts are predicting Neil Patrick Harris (”Hedwig and the Angry Inch”) to win Best Actor (Musical), but could the race be tighter than expected? Harris tied with Jefferson Mays (“Gentlemans Guide to Love and Murder”) for top honors at the Drama Desk Awards on June 1 at Town Hall in New York City.

Drama Desk Awards: Complete list of winners 

Asked if Harris had seen ”Gentleman’s Guide,” he said, ”I did, and I love that we tied because Jefferson’s a lovely man, and he’s so prolific in his talent. But what moved and impressed me is that he’s playing [eight] different roles. That dude never gets a break, so I feel a kinship to him. We both do performances that once you press the start button, don’t stop until the curtain has dropped.”

When apprised that all of the GoldDerby pundits are predicting he’ll take home the Tony, Harris said, ”Oh, snap. Fifteen out of 15? Cool! But having been the host of the Tonys for four different years, I’ve been the witness to it going exactly the way you think it’s gonna go to the person you least expect, winning. While I would love to have a Tony on a shelf, I’m very aware that it’s arbitrary to fault, and there’s [four] amazing people who are doing outrageously good performances more times a week than I am. It’ll be a fun night, regardless.” [Note: Harris, who doesn’t have an understudy, does seven shows a week, as opposed to the usual eight.]

This Drama Desk tie comes on the heels of Harris winning the Distinguished Performance award from the Drama League on May 16, while Mays picked up the Best Actor (Musical) citation at the Outer Critics Circle dinner on May 22.

Tony frontrunners dominate Drama Desk Awards:
‘Gentleman’s Guide,’ ‘All the Way’

Harris says suiting up for the Drama Desks capped off a ”crazy,” two-show Sunday: ”Two and a half-hours before [the performance], I have to eat. Two hours before, I do a vocal warmup. Ninety minutes before, I do the makeup. By the time I’m doing the show, a lot of time has passed, and I don’t really ever leave the stage. When it’s done, it’s like I’ve been shot out of a cannon. I just keep flying. And I got to do that twice today. Then I groomed and put on a suit. It’s been a wonderful day all-around.”

David Burtka, Harris’ fiance, added: ”Neil’s been amazing. Not only has it been incredible to watch him slim down 22 pounds, it’s his physicality. Playing Hedwig is such a freeing role; it’s been wild to see him rock this journey. At first, I told him I didn’t think he could do it. I knew the show really well. I saw it five times at the Jane Street Theatre and I thought he was too old. But the fact that they rewrote the script, it makes complete sense. As for pulling off the femininity of the role, it was a long stretch. Neil’s not a feminine guy in his regular world. But he did a fantastic job and I couldn’t be more proud of him.”

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(Wayman Wong, who’s covered theater for the N.Y. Daily News, Playbill and Talkin’ Broadway, is a member of the Drama Desk.)

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