The actor says goodbye to Barney Stinson to take on Hedwig in New York
Credit: Joan Marcus

Goodbye, Barney. Hello, Hedwig!

As Neil Patrick Harris leaves behind his How I Met Your Mother character Barney Stinson, he takes up the lead role in the Broadway musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and was photographed performing the song, “Tear Me Down,” during a dress rehearsal Friday night.

The father of two plays an East German transgender rocker looking for love in a revival of the cult hit that originally opened Off-Broadway in 1998 and was made famous on both stage and screen by actor John Cameron Mitchell.

The role required Harris, 40, to step out of his comfort zone, but he “put himself out there,” the show’s composer Stephen Trask tells PEOPLE.

“Working with him has sort of been a revelation because he is so incredibly detailed and hardworking and wants to get inside every single word that Hedwig sings or says.”

[Harris] has this ability to reach out and grab everyone in the house,” says Trask. “It’s something about how engaging he is as a performer that reels people in and lets the intimate moments and the heartfelt moments land as well as they did when we were in a place that was one-fifth this size.”

While the show, now in previews at the Belasco Theatre, doesn’t open officially until April 22, crowds are already going wild for Hedwig leading up to its arrival. On Saturday, more than 200 people waited in the rain to enter the first ticket lottery, and the show sold out.

“The crowd went nuts when Neil entered as Hedwig,” Trask says. “Half the songs were showstoppers. It was like being at a Beatles reunion.”

“I am simultaneously ecstatic and terrified to be stepping into Hedwig’s high heels,” Harris said last June.

The The Sound of Music it’s not, but “the thing that people can expect is it’s actually this incredibly moving and heartwarming story,” Trask says.

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