NEW YORK - By now, Daniel Radcliffe has his role in "Equus" down cold. But he still had a case of the jitters before taking the stage for the play's Broadway opening.
"It was funny because tonight I didn't expect to be nervous because we've done all the previews, we've had all the critics here," Radcliffe said after Thursday's performance. "I thought, `Oh, we'll do it tonight, it won't be so bad.' But I was terrified before we went out. I was like, `Omigod, this is it.'"
The "Harry Potter" star said there's an advantage to being nervous.
"The jitters should be there 'til the last night of performing — because the jitters are what get you on stage," he said. "It's the nerves that make it exciting and vital and make every show different."
Radcliffe earned rave reviews for his performance in the London production of the Tony-winning play. His portrayal of a disturbed teenager who blinds six horses requires him to appear naked onstage — a departure from his G-rated image as the boy wizard in the big-screen adaptations of J.K. Rowling's best-selling fantasy novels.
Radcliffe stars opposite Tony winner Richard Griffiths, who portrays his character's psychiatrist at Broadway's Broadhurst Theatre — as he did in London.
"I don't read reviews — ever," he said. "Good or bad. They affect the performance, so I tend to stay clear as much as I can."
Radcliffe — wearing a blue suit that enhanced the color of his icy blue eyes — posed for photographs with Griffiths and other "Equus" cast members before the company headed into the opening night celebration, held at a large party room inside a Chelsea Piers building on Manhattan's west side.
More than 400 people attended the event, where partygoers sat at round tables while feasting on roast beef, salmon, potatoes, salad and onion rings. Griffiths — in a white suit jacket and black bow tie — chatted amiably with guests.
"He's growing up so fast — you couldn't shake a stick at it," the Tony Award winner said of Radcliffe. "And the quality of his acting is such that it's taken big strides. And it's terrific to see. He's not a kid anymore. He's a young man and he deserves whatever breaks that brings."
Much fuss has been made over Radcliffe's nude scene in the play. The media attention made no sense to the celebrity crowd who saw the show Thursday night.
"If it's in the play, if it's in the story, if it's necessary, then it's right," said Kathleen Turner, who once briefly doffed her clothes as Mrs. Robinson in the stage version of "The Graduate."
As for Radcliffe, "The fact that he's willing to learn and risk is all to his credit," Turner said.
Actress Lili Taylor said she was excited to see Radcliffe and Griffiths in the play, and doesn't consider the nudity to be any more shocking than it was it was when "Equus" debuted on Broadway in 1974.
"If it is, I think we have to grow up a little bit," she said.
Other famous theatergoers included Dominic Cooper, Judith Light, Glenn Close, Haley Joel Osment and James Lipton, host of Bravo's "Inside the Actor's Studio."
Cooper, now co-starring with Keira Knightley in the film "The Duchess," appeared with Griffiths in the Tony-winning play "The History Boys" and its film adaptation.
"I dropped by (the theater) today and wrote some ridiculous scrappy little message to Richard in desperation for a ticket," Cooper said.