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Neil Patrick Harris returns to 'Rent' -- this time as director

August 4, 2010 |  9:24 am

Harris

On a recent afternoon, Neil Patrick Harris was standing in a large rehearsal room at the Hollywood United Methodist Church on Franklin Avenue. With a cup of coffee in one hand, he calmly observed a musical scene between actors Aaron Tveit and Vanessa Hudgens that involved a candle, a blackout and a whole lot of flirtation.

The meet-cute scene is a pivotal sequence in "Rent," the Tony-winning musical that will play up the street at the Hollywood Bowl for three performances starting Friday. Harris is directing the production, and although it's his first time staging a large-scale musical, it's fair to say that he's already well-acquainted with the storyline and the score.

Harris played the role of Mark in a national tour of "Rent" that came to Southern California in 1997. Since then, Harris has undergone a number of personal and career transformations -- including coming out as gay in 2006 -- but he has remained a fan of the Jonathan Larson musical and its embrace of downtown New York's bohemian spirit.

Hudgens, of "High School Musical" fame, plays the role of Mimi, an ailing exotic dancer who meets soulful rocker Roger (Tveit) during a power outage. Their doomed love affair plays against a canvas of colorful characters who inhabit New York's pre-gentrified East Village. (The musical is loosely based on Puccini's "La Bohème.")

The 25-member ensemble also includes the Pussycat Dolls' lead singer, Nicole Scherzinger, and television star Wayne Brady.

Read the full story about Neil Patrick Harris' return to "Rent."

-- David Ng

Photo: Vanessa Hudgens, Aaron Tveit and Neil Patrick Harris, right, rehearsing a scene from "Rent." Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times

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