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"I'm Doing Hedwig Up Here, ­Motherf–ker!" or Fan Gives Neil Patrick Harris the Fourth-Wall Broadway Blues

By Jon Sobel j.sobel@classicalite.com on Apr 21, 2014 06:30 PM EDT

Neil Patrick Harris gave the symbolic finger to an audience member who interrupted his performance in Hedwig and the Angry Inch with an "I love you, Neil!" Harris reportedly yelled back, "I'm doing something up here, ­motherf–ker!"

The actor's representative put a positive spin on it, telling Gossip Cop: "The response to the fan yelling was actually done in character--Neil as Hedwig, not as though Neil stopped the show to respond out of character."

When stage actors talk about "breaking the fourth wall" they mean communicating with the audience in a self-conscious or out-of-character way. It's a technique that can be used to great effect and has been for centuries. Shakespeare and his cohorts wrote plenty of "asides" into their scripts. But it's another thing when audience members break the wall, defy the code that says they're not to make a sound during a theatrical performance unless it's to applaud or cheer (or boo).

I witnessed something very similar years ago at a Tori Amos concert. With the singer and her piano accompanied only by a guitarist providing atmospheric sounds, it was a quiet, intense affair. I remember marveling at how it felt much more like a tennis match than a pop concert, with the audience seeming to hold its collective breath until cheering at the end of a song. But one fan interrupted the quiet intro to a song with a shouted "I love you!!" Amos stopped what she was doing, looked in the direction of the shout, and snarled, "I love you too, now can I get on with the song?"

Such things happen rarely, and it's a moment I've never forgotten. When it happens to a big name like Neil Patrick Harris, in a big Broadway musical that's gotten a lot of press, it's no wonder the story gets play in the likes of the New York Post. Here's hoping things runs smoothly henceforth for Harris and Hedwig both.


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TagsNeil Patrick Harris, broadway, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Hedwig on Broadway, Hedwig

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