Neil Patrick Harris gets a … wait for it … legendary surprise at Drama League Awards

Neil Patrick Harris says he was ”totally flummoxed” Friday as he received the Drama League’s Distinguished Performance award for playing a German transgender rock star in ”Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” The TV veteran (“How I Met Your Mother“) triumphed over a field of 50 Broadway and Off-Broadway actors that included Bryan Cranston, James Franco, Idina Menzel, Zachary Quinto, Daniel Radcliffe, Denzel Washington and Michelle Williams.

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This win boosts his odds of winning the Tony Award for Best Actor (Musical). Harris has the support of all of our Experts and Editors as well as the Top 24 Users from last year and 90% of our overall Users. That translates into leading odds of 1/10. His closest rival is Jefferson Mays who plays eight roles in “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder.” He won the Outer Critics Circle award, was up for the Drama League award as well, and has odds of 25/1. (Vote for who you think will win this Tony at the bottom of the post using our easy drag-and-drop menu.)

Drama League winners:
Neil Patrick Harris, ‘All the Way,’ ‘Gentleman’s Guide’

In picking up the prestigious honor, which was first given out in 1935, Harris remembered being a kid and seeing James Earl Jones in August Wilson‘s ”Fences”: ”This little white boy got to bear witness to his performance and watch the ferocity with which [Jones] told the story and to cry for him and to cry with him. That left such a strong impact on me.”

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As Harris stood at the star-studded dais, he revealed, ”I love theater. I’m such a fan of the athleticism of these performances; every single night for a year or more than that, they give 100%. … To stand up on a stage and do ‘Hedwig’ is such a bizarrely transformative experience in every way, physically and emotionally.”

In closing, Harris said, ”I can’t believe this is happening,” and then joked, ‘And you can only win [this award] once, so now I can do porn and you won’t think badly of me!”

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This marks the second time the Drama League has honored Harris this year. On Feb. 3, Whoopi Goldberg (his co-star from 1988’s “Clara’s Heart”) hosted “A Musical Celebration of Broadway!,” a tribute to him that included Audra McDonald, Zachary Levi and Harris’ partner, David Burtka.

Harris has won acclaim and three Emmys for hosting the Tonys and might well be in contention again at this year’s Emmys for emceeing last year’s kudocast. This year, he passed on hosting duties to another pro with Tony experience: Hugh Jackman who presided over the show three years in a row beginning in 2003. In 2004, Jackman won the Drama League performance prize and then the Tony for his starring role in the tuner “The Boy From Oz.” 

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