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Rosie O’Donnell to World: Hell Is for Children

Rosie loves the childrenPhoto by Getty Images

Everybody knows that lovable loose cannon Rosie O’Donnell — she of the recently un-renewed View contract and vulgar crotch gesture to the Donald — adores both kids and Broadway, especially the cool young’uns in the teen-cult alt-rock musical Spring Awakening. So it was a good fit yesterday afternoon when O’Donnell hosted a forum on the Awakening stage at the O’Neill Theater. Screaming area teens peppered the show’s cast, as well as that of the Canadian high-school TV drama Degrassi, with some heavily pre-scripted questions on the trials and tribulations of all things teen. (Does “no” really mean “no”? How do I dump someone? Am I gay?) O’Donnell reminded us how warm, funny and down-to-earth she can be, telling the kids, “You will never meet an adult who says, “God, I wish I had sex sooner,’” and, helpfully, “If you fall in love with someone gay and you’re the opposite gender, it’s not going to work.”

But she also gave the kids a taste of the backstage Rosie-From-Hell. When Scrubs cutie Zach Braff had to introduce her for the third time, because of technical difficulties, she said, “Whoever the producer is, you suck.” The producer abuse didn’t stop there, as the Queen of Nice took questions from audience members “even though they’re not lit and I need night vision to see you.” Following up on a comment from Awakening cast member John Gallagher Jr., she told the kids to finish high school, then, when Gallagher added that he actually hadn’t, snapped, “It would have been nice if you told me.” And she had little patience for a silly text-messaging poll at the forum’s close, all but shuffling off the stage with a sloppy good-bye air kiss in her baggy black clothes and electric-blue Crocs. (Though she wasn’t taking press questions, we had a nanosecond to ask her something outside the theater while she was escorted to her limo, but didn’t because, well … we were afraid of her. And her handler made a big noooooo slicing-the-neck sign to some other lurking reporters.)

God bless the Awakening kids, who covered for her (as did the show’s co-producer, Tom “Amadeus” Hulce, calling Rosie’s appearance “a generous thing”). Gallagher, 22, went so far as to blame himself for his brief misunderstanding with Ro, saying, “I wish I had done the good sound-bite thing of making [not finishing school] part of my message.” Did Ro talk about the View contract to-do? Said female lead Lea Michelle, 20, whose effusive sweetness suggests a young, unmedicated Paula Abdul, “Noooo! She came here to be here for us. She’s such a good friend of ours now, and we feel so special for her to be that way with us.”

In other words, these kids are too sweet and unspoiled to grill at this point — especially when they suck up to the cultural power of New York’s almighty Approval Matrix: “You put the Spring Awakening logo in Highbrow Brilliant, but last week, you said that the Pulitzer going to The Rabbit Hole, which I was in, was Highbrow Despicable,” said Gallagher. “To be Highbrow Despicable and Highbrow Brilliant in one year!” We know, John — that’s heady stuff. — Tim Murphy

Related: Broadway’s New Teen Heroes

Rosie O’Donnell to World: Hell Is for Children