Ask Neil Patrick Harris how he sees his job as host of tonight’s Tony Awards, and the star of TV’s “How I Met Your Mother” says judiciously, “Ringmaster at the circus – I want to be strong enough to earn your trust but be able to allow all the specialty acts to shine.”
And this year’s ceremony (8 p.m., CBS) is packed with enough to keep its host very busy indeed.
Star performances will be abundant, from Elton John and the cast of “Billy Elliot” to Dolly Parton and the folks from “9 to 5.”
Eclectic, too, from Liza Minnelli to the 1980s hair-metal band Poison celebrating with the cast of “Rock of Ages.” Plus, of course, scenes from the nominated best musicals and best musical revivals.
“It’s the biggest night on Broadway and to be able to helm the ship is amazing,” Harris says. “I get an all-access pass. It will be the best seat in the house.”
He comes to the job with some experience, getting good notices hosting the TV Land Awards in April.
For those who only know the 35-year-old Harris as the womanizing Barney Stinson on “Mother” or from his breakout TV role as “Doogie Howser, M.D.,” his theater career may come as a surprise.
“Quite frankly, I am happy if the people who are watching in middle America think that I am the guy from ‘How I Met Your Mother,’ ” he says. “But what I am passionate about, in person, is theater.”
He made his Broadway debut in 2002 in the Pulitzer Prize-winning “Proof.” From there, he went into “Cabaret” as its flamboyant M.C.
Harris has been steeped in the work of Stephen Sondheim, too, including a pair of concert versions of “Sweeney Todd” in which he played the murderous Todd’s young assistant, Tobias.
Then there was his turn as the Balladeer and Lee Harvey Oswald in a revival of “Assassins,” plus a recording of Sondheim’s TV musical, “Evening Primrose.”
Because “How I Met Your Mother” occupies his time for seven months a year, there is little time for Harris to do stage work. That’s why he’s grateful for the Tony job and modest about his contribution.
“We really want to make sure that people who watch the show get a good sense of what’s there on Broadway,” he says.
“To spend too much time watching the host dance around and sing a song takes away time from the shows that deserve that.”
The birthday bunch
Singer Tom Jones is 69. Actor Ken Osmond (“Leave It To Beaver”) is 66. Talk show host Jenny Jones is 63. Actor Liam Neeson is 57. Actor William Forsythe is 54. Record producer L.A. Reid is 53. Musician Prince is 51. Singer-guitarist Gordon Gano (Violent Femmes) is 46. Guitarist Dave Navarro is 42. Comedian Bill Hader (“Saturday Night Live”) is 31. Actress Larisa Oleynik is 28. Actor Michael Cera is 21.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.