Neil Patrick Harris Directs Rent, Makes Bizarre Casting Decisions

June 9, 2010  |  12:10pm

He’s been a teen doctor, singing supervillain and Barney Stinson. But now, Neil Patrick Harris will be taking on a challenge of a different kind: directing for the stage.

It was revealed last month that Harris would be directing a special engagement of the Tony Award-winning musical Rent at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, which will run August 6, 7 and 8. Harris has plenty of experience with the show, having played the role of Mark Cohen in the L.A. company of Rent in 1997.

In Harris’s production, actress Vanessa Hudgens will star as Mimi, a 19-year-old junkie and exotic dancer — a far cry from her breakout role in Disney’s ultra-saccharine High School Musical series. It was announced last week that Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger has joined the cast as Maureen.

Harris defended his casting decision in a Pollstar.com article: “Nicole had a wonderful audition – she was well prepared, sang beautifully, and had us all laughing,” he explained. “If only she was somewhat attractive and didn’t have two left feet.”

Another casting surprise is Wayne Brady (of Whose Line? fame), who is signed on to play Tom “Collins” Collins, the HIV-positive anarchist academic. Just let that sentence sink in for a second.

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