Neil Patrick Harris challenges James Corden in Broadway Riff-Off: who won?

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This story makes the theater nerd in me so happy (Florida State School of Theater, ’90!) National treasure Neil Patrick Harris stopped by The Late, Late Show with James Corden on Monday night and took part in a musical challenge for the ages. You can keep your “Lip Sync Battle,” Jimmy Fallon, because the “Broadway Riff-Off” is my new favorite late night segment.

NPH, who was promoting his upcoming Netflix series, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (premiering on Friday), interrupted James during one of his bits and mocked him for winning a Tony for a “non-singing role.” If you’re curious, I’ll save you the Google search. James won the Tony for Best Actor in a Play for his role in the comedy One Man, Two Guvnors in 2012. It was quite an impressive win, as James beat out heavy hitters James Earl Jones, Frank Langella, John Lithgow, and Philip Seymour Hoffman for the award. Sorry, theater nerd digression.

James, who brought the world “Carpool Karaoke,” has proven he’s got the pipes, so the two went to battle in an epic “Broadway Riff-Off,” backed by the LA-based a cappella group Filharmonic. James kicked things off with a rousing rendition of “Sit Down, You’re Rocking the Boat” from Broadway warhorse (and show I can bet at least 50% of your high school drama clubs performed) Guys and Dolls. NPH countered with “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” from community theater favorite Gypsy.

The competition between the two former Tony hosts moved on to the “tragic ballad” category, with James performing “On My Own” from Les Misérables and NPH volleying with his second Stephen Sondheim ditty, “Being Alive” from Company. This was kind of unfair, as Neil sang this song as part of the 2011 filmed performance of the musical with the New York Philharmonic.

Neil introduced the last round of the competition by declaring that, “Being a Broadway star isn’t all about being pretty is it? It’s also about being sexy.” James brought his version of sexy with a performance of “All that Jazz” from Chicago and Neil once again had an unfair advantage, belting out some of the unforgivingly toe-tapping and most definitely sexy “Sugar Daddy” from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the show that landed Neil a Tony in 2014.

And, as as much as I think NPH had this in the bag – and don’t get me wrong, I love James too – the two called it a draw and ended the challenge with a duet of “My Shot” from Hamilton. If you love Neil, James, or musical theater, take the time to watch the clip. It’s magical.

Neil won, right? Cool story, Corey: I have seen Hedwig on Broadway twice, once with NPH, who was electric and again the next year when John Cameron Mitchell, who originated the role, and, obviously, he was better. To be honest, I pretty much cried during the whole show because I was so in awe. But, yeah, I’d give the victory in this one to NPH. He sure gave it his all. I mean, he really gave his all, confessing to James in the next segment of the show, “When I went down on my knees there, I had a nice wardrobe malfunction and split my pants from my ass to my knee. I left it all on the stage for you.” That he did. That…he…did. Can’t wait for one of these “Riff-Offs” between James and Lin-Manuel Miranda. Make. It. Happen.

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17 Responses to “Neil Patrick Harris challenges James Corden in Broadway Riff-Off: who won?”

  1. delphi says:

    💚💚💚 NPH can sing all the Sondheim he wants to. “Company” is my all-time favorite show. I remember my mom playing the OCST with Dean Jones and Elaine Stritch all the time when I was a wee little bug.

    (Theatre kid here, too. BFA, Costuming. Univ. of Kentucky. Yay, Corey! One of us…one of us…)

  2. Jade says:

    I wonder how NPH got to be addressed as his full name….love him.

  3. Lena says:

    How cute are the fillharmonic guys though? Their expressions made it so much better.

  4. Odette says:

    What a great way to start the day! (Corden for the win, though!).

  5. SusanneToo says:

    We, the audience, won. Love them both.

  6. Lindy says:

    I love me some NPH! I’ll be watching this clip for sure (as soon as I can find my headphones at work)!

  7. GingerCrunch says:

    How much fun is that??? Not a theater nerd, but loved it and everyone’s talent is amazing! Corden really is the best “Jimmy” on late night tv.

  8. Dunne says:

    I loved this! I work in musical theatre so I always get a bit of a kick when I see it in the mainstream.
    Corey- Have you heard Rufus Wainwright’s cover of ‘Origin of Love’? It’s one of my favorites and-dare I say- even better than JCM…

  9. Wienerdogsmom says:

    I love NPH! He is so talented & so fun to watch no matter what he’s doing. I also love that he appears to be aging gracefully. If he’s had anything done I sure can’t tell & he’s one that just gets better looking the older he gets!

  10. Meme says:

    not a theater person but i loved these two in this!!! so adorable!

  11. S says:

    I love this.
    One of my proudest moments is when I asked my 4 year old son if he wanted to watch the GGs with me, and he looked up suddenly and asked “the Tony awards???” When I said no, he shrugged and went back to what he was doing.

  12. Hazel says:

    I agree with the commenter above, we all won! That was great! Thanks!

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