New York theater audiences haven’t always been on their best behavior in recent years. There was the audience member in the balcony of Grace who threw up on the audience members in the orchestra below. Then during a play further downtown theater critic Kevin Williamson tossed the phone of a young woman sitting nearby him when she refused to put it away during a performance. Even the “please no photography” rule gets ignored, with the theater staff having to specifically ask audience members not to take photos of Emilia Clarke during her brief flash of nudity in the short-lived Breakfast at Tiffany’s. That particular sort of bad behavior even made it 80 miles northeast to Yale Repertory Theatre when Joe Manganiello had to shout at an audience member to stop taking photos during a performance of A Streetcar Named Desire.
But chatty audience members during preview performances of Hedwig and the Angry Inch might have crossed lines that those badly-behaved audience members wouldn’t dare. Star Neil Patrick Harris has had to fend off a handful instances of theatergoers shouting out his name during the scenes when Hedwig speaks directly to the audience. However, in each instance Harris has responded with a vulgar retort in-character as Hedwig.
On the topic of the interruptions, Harris told the Associated Press, “Hedwig’s energy transfers itself into a dialogue with the audience. So if someone calls something out, it’s sort of my responsibility, in character, to make sure that that person knows that this isn’t the kind of show like Rocky Horror, where I’m going to be bantering with them.” He continues, “That’s part of the job that I have to say, ‘All right,’ in character, ‘Settle it down girl, we’re in the middle of a show right now. So that happened and people thought it was funny. I’ve done worse. She’s a tough girl that Hedwig.”
While Harris is prepared to respond to unruly audience members, he confesses that he doesn’t have the response preplanned. He explains, “I don’t come up with zingers and think, ‘I can’t wait to say something rude to this person,’ but sometimes things happen. That’s why it’s theater.”
Though Harris is obviously thrilled that his fans are coming out to see him on Broadway, he obviously doesn’t want his return after a decade-long absence to be marred by overly affectionate fans. He reveals why it took him so long to return, pointing out, “I didn’t want to finish (a season of) How I Met Your Mother, and jump right into previews and rehearsals, and as soon as it was done go back to the show. I would have just been exhausted. I was anxious for them to not cast somebody else.”
What brought him back after all that time? Harris says, “The repetition of it is what has drawn me to it.” Obviously mouthy audience members are not part of that repetition, so if you go to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch, be respectful, please!