Yes, Rescue Me fans, that was really Steven Pasquale on last night's episode -- in his role as New York firefighter Sean Garrity -- singing in a sweet tenor, dressed in suit and tie, at least until Kevin Chapman, as Garrity's brother, Terrance, interrupted the tune by making fun of him.
"I'm sure there will be fans who think it's not me," Pasquale says, backstage at Broadway's Lyceum Theater, after one of the final performances of Neil Labute's Tony-nominated harsh comedy, Reasons to Be Pretty. "You know, it'll be, 'Why is Michael Buble doing the voice for Sean?'"
In fact, for the 32-year-old actor, song-and-dance is a more natural milieu than the rough-and-tumble comedy of Rescue Me.
"I'd never done comedy," Pasquale says. "Now people think I'm a comedian. Stand-up would be my worst nightmare. But here, if the material is funny, it's great fun."
As he spoke, Pasquale was in the final week of performances of Reasons to Be Pretty. The dark comedy, which closed this past Sunday, is about a relationship break-up that continues to haunt both the guy and the girl. Pasquale played the main character's best friend, a guy with an amplified id whose friendship winds up to be surprisingly conditional.
"I think of Garrity as being a sweetheart, so this is a departure for me," he says. "I more often play the other guy, the earnest do-gooder.
"I had worked with Neil Labute on Fat Pig and I'd worked with (director) Terry Kinney before, too. So I had a great relationship with both of them. They always had me in the back of their mind for this role but I couldn't do it downtown because of Rescue Me. But we were able to make this work."
On Rescue Me, his character, Sean Garrity, is not the brightest of bulbs: "You have to be really smart to play someone that dumb," Pasquale says. "There's a little bit of Woody from Cheers, some of Lowell from Wings -- and then my own special brand of dumbness."
In the show, Garrity is recovering from surgery to remove a cancerous kidney. In a coma following the operation, last night he fantasized himself as a Fred Astaire-like character in a black-and-white musical number. There will be two more musical interludes in coming episodes; none ever quite go from start-to-finish without incident -- usually a darkly comic incident, at that.
"Denis [Leary] and Peter [Tolan, the show's cocreators] and I all had the idea," Pasquale says. "It was such a departure. Denis and Peter are giant fans of the American musical, something most people wouldn't figure. The fact that I'm a musical guy gave them the chance to explore this."
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