It’s been a song-filled year for the guys of How I Met Your Mother. Music man Neil Patrick Harris starred in Stephen Sondheim’s Company. Jason Segel stretched his pipes in The Muppets. Now Josh Radnor is leading a one-night only benefit reading of the romantic musical comedy She Loves Me at Roundabout’s Stephen Sondheim Theatre on Dec. 5. His co-stars include Tony winner Jane Krakowski, Tony nominee Victor Garber, and a 15-member orchestra — not bad for a guy whose previous singing experience was basically crooning for laughs on TV. Since we already know that he’s a skilled romantic comedian from HIMYM, Radnor recently took some time from rehearsals to tell to EW what to expect from his Broadway-style belting.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Your How I Met Your Mother costars have been doing a lot of singing this year.
JOSH RADNOR: [Laughing] What is this? Are you trying to get me more nervous?
No! Do you feel pressure?
Um, yeah. It didn’t escape my attention that I’m the only one of the main cast members [in She Loves Me] that doesn’t have a Tony nomination, so that was a little nerve wracking. But everyone is so kind in this cast. From right when I got there, they were just really supportive.
Have you done anything like this before?
I’ve sung a lot. I trained at NYU and we had singing for three years. I started off doing musicals in high school, it’s just been a while since I’ve done it up on stage. Though, that’s not exactly true — I did a workshop at the Roundabout about a year and a half ago, but just in a rehearsal space.
So high school was your first time singing in front of a live audience.
Yes, Oklahoma! my sophomore year of high school. It was the first musical I ever did. I played Will Parker. He sings “Kansas City.” Everything’s up to date in Kansas City. I did some dancing, I think. But I’m not Gene Kelly or anything.
How’d you prepare for this show?
I worked with a vocal coach out in L.A. for a few weeks before I got to New York.
Did you learn any tricks to get through the whole musical? You are singing seven songs.
How do you know all this? Who told you these things? Do I have any tricks? No. My trick is the trick that everyone knows: Work really hard and prepare. That way you have something to hold on to, you know, when you’re at the top of the roller coaster going down on the night you perform.
Do you sing a lot at home?
Currently, I’m singing songs from the show. My whole repertoire has been replaced with songs from She Loves Me.
Do you have a favorite?
Our musical director Paul Gemignani said to me the other day that there are only about six perfect musicals and this is one of them. The title song is fantastic. But there is this very quick patter song called “Tonight at Eight” that I’m running through over and over because if you slip up once you’re done for. Though, I probably shouldn’t say that.
Whom would you say you’re most like as a song-and-dance man?
I can’t answer that, because I have no idea.
Then what should fans expect from your real singing voice? Is it like Ted from How I Met Your Mother singing Cheap Trick, Ted singing the Proclaimers, Ted singing in “Nothing Suits Me Like a Suit”…
I did a crooning ballad with all the scenery changing behind me called “Super Date.” My voice is closest to that. But this character is different from that one guy I play on TV. He’s in a Lonely Hearts Club. He’s been exchanging letters with this woman and falling in love with her via the letters. He doesn’t realize that she’s the same woman who’s recently been hired at the shop where he works, and they don’t really get along. Something about her gets under his skin — both as the woman writing the letters and the woman annoying him in the shop. Future lovers tend to do these sorts of things before they get together. It’s just adorable.
Do you think you’ll do a show like She Loves Me again, maybe this time on Broadway, where you already starred in The Graduate?
Oh, I’d love to. Acting on stage is still my favorite thing to do. And everyone who’s been in musicals knows that there is nothing more fun.
Can we call you a quadruple threat now that you’ve acted, written and directed a film, and sung in a musical?
Well, I also produced my last film, so you could actually call me….
A quintuple threat?
Then what’s next?
What’s next? I don’t know. I just need to get through this week. Then I’ll reassess.