Darren Criss hosts Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards | EW.com

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Darren Criss charms at Broadway.com Audience Choice Awards, talks stage pranks and 'Newsies'

Darren Criss

(John Lamparski/WireImage)

Darren Criss may have only been on Broadway for three weeks, but he’s already solidified his place in the Broadway community and earned an enviable résumé credit: host of Broadway.com’s 13th-annual Audience Choice Awards.

EW attended the theatrical get-together last night at the Time-Warner Center in New York, where the festivities were merry and the presenters (including Adam Pascal, Brian D’Arcy James, Judith Light and Tammy Blanchard) were even more so. While other theater awards ceremonies can be stuffy affairs, Criss’s self-referential shtick got things off to a lively start. Armed with a guitar and a piano, Criss made his way through the program with musical interludes that poked fun at his short-lived stint in How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and skewered some of his Broadway contemporaries – which he was known to do during his prank-filled run as J. Pierrepont Finch.

“Theater’s live and always different, so it’s always going to be fun, and the energy’s always ridiculous,” said Criss on the red carpet before the show began. “I always make sure to try and screw with the people on stage when I’m on stage by doing any variety of distracting gestures. I’m sure they don’t appreciate it, but I certainly do. But that’s not exclusive to Broadway, that’s just any self-respecting goofy actor on the stage anywhere.”

While Criss’s musical numbers were entertaining fare, credit also goes to Jackie Hoffman, Broadway’s Julia Roberts of screwball comedy, who accepted awards for no-shows like Alan Rickman and Andrew Garfield (and won the crowd with “impressions,” if they can be called that). Criss received the Audience Choice Award for Favorite Replacement (for stepping into Daniel Radcliffe’s shoes in H2$), while shows like Newsies and Peter and the Starcatcher dominated other categories, including Favorite New Musical and Favorite New Play. Newsies star Jeremy Jordan won the award for Favorite Actor in a Musical.

“I’ve been public for my praise of Jeremy Jordan. I was pissed I missed Bonnie and Clyde, but I was happy to see him go back to Newsies,” said Criss. “It was cool to hear ‘Sante Fe’ sung by somebody who has real singing chops. No disrespect to Mr. [Christian] Bale. I think he’ll be the first person to say the same thing!”

Criss, confident and able to hypnotize audiences with just a smile, is a hosting natural, and a fan-driven awards show made for a splendid platform for a performer who knows how to reach his fans – maybe better than anyone else on Broadway.

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