Story By: G. H. HARDING
Neil Patrick Harris

HARRIS SIZZLES IN HEDWIG --- Neil Patrick Harris in Hedwig and the Angry Inch is just astonishing. We saw it Wednesday and I'm tempted to say it was one of the best things I've ever seen on Broadway.

Harris, who won a Tony this year for this performance, is a triple-threat for sure. I even remember him as Doogie Howser, M.D. on TV, and his work in the just-ended How I Met Your Mother was superb. He’s been in Glee, Rent, hosted the Tony Awards, and has appeared in such movies as the forthcoming Gone Girl and A Million Ways To Die in the West.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch is a rock musical about a fictional rock and roll band fronted by an East German transgender singer. The text is by John Cameron Mitchell, and the music and lyrics are by Stephen Trask. The musical premiered in 1998 and has been performed throughout the world in hundreds of stage productions.

We first saw it around that time in Lower Manhattan and knew it was something totally unique. There are heavy-elements of Bowie, Lou Reed and Queen, but it stood alone and was a major, transformed work for sure.

The story draws on Mitchell's life as the son of a U. S. Army Major General who once commanded the U.S. sector of occupied West Berlin. The character of Hedwig was originally inspired by a German divorced U. S. Army wife who was a Mitchell family babysitter and moonlighted as a prostitute at her Junction City, Kansas, trailer park home.

The music is steeped in the androgynous 1970’s glam rock era of Bowie (who co-produced the Los Angeles production of the show), as well as the work of John Lennon and early punk godfathers Lou Reed and Iggy Pop.

The musical opened Off-Broadway in 1998, and won a Village Voice Obie Award and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Musical. The Off-Broadway production ran for two years, and was remounted with various casts by the original creative team in Boston, Los Angeles and London.

Lena Hall, in the role of Yitzhak, also won a Tony for her performance. She was terrific as well. The music, especially “Sugar Daddy” (a real showstopper), “Hedwig’s Lament” and “Wicked Little Town” sound better and stronger than ever.

The concept is just brilliant (and, true), and this production just electric. The experience was like that of seeing rent for the first time. Fresh, new, intoxicating … in a good way.

Director Michael Mayer’s best work … ever!

Harris, onstage for almost every minute, is stunningly good. For me, the performance of the year … eye-opening and exceptional.

Matthew McConaughey

COMIC-CON NOLAN & McCONAUGHEY ---  Comic-Con fans were reeling on Thursday afternoon as Christopher Nolan and Matthew McConaughey made their first-ever appearances at the San Diego fan confab, answering questions and offering a new trailer for their Interstellar movie to SRO crowd.

“Thought it would be a fun thing to come down and see what all the fuss is about,” Nolan told the roaring audience.

Interstellar has largely been veiled in secrecy, but Paramount was looking to give fans what they want, putting footage front and center. The studio also showed footage from Hot Tub Time Machine 2, found footage pic Project Almanac, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and SpongeBob SquarePants: Sponge Out of Water, which will be a combo of animation and CG live-action.

The director of Inception and the Dark Knight trilogy explained that the driving force of the upcoming sci-fi drama was going to space.

“To be an astronaut was the highest ambition,” he said. “The idea to keep exploring space farther and farther… it (fell) off greatly. We are in a period of incredible technological change, (but it’s about) what’s in your pocket, your living room. I like the idea that we are on the cusp of a brand new era and we are traveling outwards more.”

According to McConaughey, it all began in Nolan’s living room: three hours, nothing about a movie, just Nolan and the Oscar-winning actor.

“I was like, what the hell was that about,” the actor quipped. “A week later, the script came out, I read it and I liked it quite a lot and I was in.”

So what is the film about?

Said the True Detective star, “Cooper is a pilot, an engineer, and a widowed pilot of two children where civilization is just sustaining. There’s food, clean water, but they don't need any explorers, no new bright ideas. Then something happens and the dream of being a pilot again knocks on his door.” The chance becomes the greatest mission he’s ever taken on.

Nolan explained that the spaceship, its interiors and exteriors were designed to be as “realistic as possible for the actors.” That meant actual views out the windows, for example.

Paramount also chose to show extended footage and an additional trailer, roughly six to eight minutes in total, showing shots of Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine in character.

RONSTADT @ WHITE HOUSE --- Linda Ronstadt has been selected to receive the National Medal of Arts Monday at the White House.

The National Medal of Arts is the highest award in the U.S. given to artists and arts patrons by the federal government. Next Monday's ceremony will be hosted by President Obama with Michele Obama in attendance and will be streamed live at 3:00 PM via WH.gov/Live.

Ronstadt was selected "for her one-of-a-kind voice and her decades of remarkable music. Drawing from a broad range of influences, Ms. Ronstadt defied expectations to conquer American radio waves and help pave the way for generations of women artists."

Linda will reportedly make the trip to Washington, a rarity these days since her announcement last year that she is suffering from Parkinson's Disease. Ronstadt did not attend her recent induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Also being honored is Albert Maysles who, with his brother David, documented the infamous Rolling Stones 1969 show at Altamont in the documentary Gimme Shelter.

Scott Shannon

CLOSING NOTES --- Monkee-Micky Dolenz confirmed for CBS FM’s Scott Shannon 101-show Anniversary next Friday (8/1) at the City Winery. Also present will be Mark Rivera …

Billy Joel has been selected to receive the sixth Gershwin Prize from the Library of Congress.

The Gershwin Prize For Popular Song "celebrates the work of an artist whose career reflects lifetime achievement in promoting song as a vehicle of musical expression and cultural understanding." The recipient is chosen by the Librarian of Congress based upon recommendations from a board made up of scholars, producers, performers, music critics, songwriters and music specialists.

James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, said "Billy Joel is a storyteller of the highest order. There is an intimacy to his songwriting that bridges the gap between the listener and the worlds he shares through music. When you listen to a Billy Joel song, you know about the people and the place and what happened there. And while there may be pain, despair and loss, there is ultimately a resilience to it that makes you want to go to these places again and again."

Joel issued his own statement, saying "The great composer, George Gershwin, has been a personal inspiration to me throughout my career and the Library’s decision to include me among those songwriters who have been past recipients is a milestone for me."

SIGHTINGS: PR Pasha David Salidor at the Palm in East Hampton ... Producer Brian Grazer at walking and talking on NY's Central Park South ...