Neil Patrick Harris may seem ultra-confident on a Broadway stage, a movie screen or on television but he admits even he can have major bouts with insecurity.
One of those times came in 2011 when he appeared in The New York Philharmonic concert production of Company with such heavy hitters as Patti LuPone, Stephen Colbert and Katie Finneran.
His character of Bobby is essentially the glue holding the all-star show together and Harris – busy on the sitcom How I Met Your Mother – arrived for his first rehearsal not knowing his lines. The rest of the cast was already off-book.
During rehearsals, Lupone watched as Harris did a scene with John Cryer and Jennifer Laura Thompson.
‘When it’s over, she tells Jon and Jennifer, "You guys are unbelievably funny,"’ Harris recalls in his memoir Choose Your Own Autobiography.
She then looked at Harris with a withering stare and said, ‘You’re getting there.’
Then the two-time Tony winner and originator of the roles of Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, Fantine in Les Miserables and Evita Peron in Evita, turned and walked away.
Harris writes that he was so mad he was shaking. For a half hour he was silent and stewing. Lupone asked him what is wrong.
In front of everyone Harris cried out: ‘I’m failing at this at every turn, and you’re telling everyone else they’re awesome and you’re saying, "I’ll get there! It’s not helpful! It’s not funny!’
Lupone, who had previously worked with Harris in a televised concert staging of Sweeney Todd, was not amused.
‘Oh, no, this is on you,’ she retorted. ‘Don’t put this on me, this is your thing, you – …’
Harris writes that Lupone – never known to suffer fools – then used ‘a colorful variety of Anglo-Saxon words befoe grabbing her script and storming out.’
He and Lupone patched things up later that night and they and the rest of the cast went on to give four well-received performances of Company at Lincoln Center. It was filmed and released into theaters across the US.
Below are Harris performing Being Alive and Lupone belting out Ladies Who Lunch.