Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Happy Birthday, Norbert Leo Butz!!

Today might be the most important day of the year for Broadway (besides the Tony Awards, of course). It's the birthday of the greatest actor, certainly of our time, if not ever: Norbert Leo Butz!

*New to Singular Sensation in 2014: a Norbert Leo Butz page (on the right, under "Topics")*

He is a 2-time Tony Award Winner (for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Catch Me if You Can), Astaire Award-winner, 2-time Drama Desk winner, as well as Outer Critics Circle and Drama League. The man can hardly go on stage without winning something, or at the very least getting nominated. That's because he's brilliant. Please watch how different these roles are. And keep in mind: all of these are the same guy.

So below you will find a comprehensive look at Norbert Leo Butz and his career. Another reason I love him (besides his awesome talent) is that he's from a big family. So read about that and more about his career in this interview with him from the New York Post!

It's hard to say exactly when he got really famous, but I think it must have been in 2003 for Wicked, because though his character wasn't necessarily a focal point, it the show itself was huge. So at the age of 36, he played a self-proclaimed shallow college heart-throb. And he was awesome. So here's a video from that. It's "Dancing Through Life," of course. Here's a random side note: as you watch these videos of him, does anyone else notice his distinctive, limp left arm? It's hard to explain, but there's just something he does that I first noticed with Catch Me if You Can, but realized he does in just about everything he performs.


Of course, his hipster fans above the age of about 18 or so have likely loved him ever since he appeared in the incredibly text-book Off-Broadway flop, The Last Five Years in 2002. Though it only ran March 3- May 5, they still released a cast album. Thank goodness they did, because the music is great, and of course Norbert is just awesome.

What's unique about this show is that there are only 2 cast members: Norbert was Jamie, and Sherie Renee Scott was Kathleen (Kathy). But that's not all: it's basically a half-backwards show. That is, it's told in chronological order from the beginning for Jamie, and it's told from the end to the beginning with Kathy. The only scene in which their stories cross paths is their wedding scene. I promise it makes sense on stage. So, the show opens with Kathy singing a sad song about how her husband Jamie basically doesn't love her anymore, after being a couple for 5 years. The closing song, "Goodbye/Goodbye Until Tomorrow," is heart-breaking, because it is the end of Jamie's story and the beginning of Kathy's.

So here's a video of Norbert singing "I Could Be in Love With Someone Like You" from the 2001 Chicago production. The Last Five Years is actually based on the writer, Jason Robert Brown's failed marriage, so his ex sued him and got him to change this song so that it didn't resemble their relationship so much. This one was replaced by "Shiksa Goddess." So in the story, this is the first time you meet Jamie. NLB performed this one at his 54 Below concert, and secretly, this is my favorite song from the show. Observe how he uses that whole stage without looking awkward or small. Incredible.


He may have gotten a bit of fame from Wicked, but he really began to receive notoriety from his 2005 performance as Freddy in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. That show barely ran a year and a half, and out of the 10 Drama Desk, 6 Outer Critics, and 11 Tony Award nominations it received, the show only won one in each category. And that was the Best Actor in a Musical award, for Norbert Leo Butz. This was the second time he was in a show that failed, and people said he was the only good thing about it (the first time was in 2001 Thou Shalt Not). And oddly enough, he seems to be in a lot of those failed shows where he shines. To date, there are those two, plus Dead Accounts for sure, Catch Me if You Can (that one had a lot of good things about it, but he was the best) and probably all three of the other Broadway shows he has been in (though I'm not sure). Here's the Tony performance. It's not a fantastic show, and this isn't even that good of a song, but don't you think he himself is incredible?


And his latest awesome achievement: of course his Tony-Award-winning performance as FBI Agent Carl Hanratty in another flop, Catch Me if You Can. He won his second Tony for this performance, and watching this video, you'll see why. Here's another little aside about awards for this show: it was nominated for a total of 20 awards (across the Tonys, Drama Desk, Outer Critics, Astaire, Drama League), four of which were for Norbert as Best Actor, and can you guess how many they won? Three. Again, they were all Norbert's (the only one he didn't win was the Outer Critics nod).

Watch this video of him performing "Don't Break the Rules" at the Tony Awards in 2011. This is the second-best Tony performance of all time, so be prepared (the best one has to be "The Circle of Life." Not even Norbert can compete with an elephant walking through the crowd). You may have seen this video on Singular Sensation before, but watch it again. And again.


He made his Broadway debut in Rent, eventually replacing Adam Pascal as Roger. His other Broadway credits include Thou Shalt Not (2001), Is He Dead? (2007), Speed the Plow (2008), Enron (2010), and Dead Accounts (2012). He's really done everything. His next project is Big Fish the musical (based on the movie of the same name), which is slated for an October 2013 opening.

And one more video: I love this. It's a pre-Tony Awards interview for Broadway.com, and it's just great. He talks about the shows he's done, including a lot of anecdotes. You can see how humble this guy is and how much he truly loves what he does.


So happy birthday, Norbert! Hopefully this made clear why he is the greatest actor alive.

Sally Henry www.BroadwayWorld.com/author/Sally-Henry // Twitter: www.twitter.com/bwayginger // Facebook: www.facebook.com/singularsensationbway

Read More:
PlaybillVault.com
Norbert in Wicked
Norbert in Big Fish

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Disney Brings ALADDIN to Broadway 2014... and HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME Too?

After waiting years for this, Aladdin will finally be added to the list of Disney movies that have made the transition to Broadway. The New York Times reported that some anonymous Disney spokesman for this show said that Mary Poppins, which opened in 2006, will close in March 2013 to make way for renovations to the New Amsterdam Theatre. After said renovations, Aladdin may be able to come swooping in and open sometime in 2014.

This is not totally out of the blue, though. You may recall that Aladdin premiered at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle two years ago, so it seemed only a matter of time before the official word on the Broadway show would come. That version included songs and whole elements which had been left out of the original movie. For instance, originally: Aladdin had some street rat friends who added a new dimension to the show, including singing the cut song "High Adventure;" Aladdin sang "Proud of Your Boy" in which the audience realizes he misses his mother; and Jasmine got a character-establishing solo, "Call Me Princess." All of these were added back in for the Seattle production.

But sources told BroadwayWorld.com that this will not be a copy/paste version of the 5th Avenue one, but they're adding in multi-award-winning set designer Bob Crowley. But he's the one who did the costumes for the Broadway version of Little Mermaid. Remember? He's the brilliant genius behind the secret to mermaids looking like they're swimming (or at the very least gliding) on stage: the Healys. Those shoes that all the cool kids wore a few years ago that had wheels on the bottom. But they're shoes which your local non-profit Putnam County Playhouse could have used for their dinky production of The Little Mermaid. With a budget the size of Disney's, that's not even close to impressive. He also directed the epic failure Tarzan the Broadway Musical. Let's just say it was so bad, that most people don't even realize it was on Broadway. But if they mess this one up like they did Little Mermaid and Tarzan, I'll be very disappointed.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame actually has already premiered in Germany, with a successful 3-year run (a record for Berlin), and there are some murmurings that it may be the next to appear on The Great White Way. But who knows? Considering Aladdin has a 2014 opening date, I've no doubt that it could be a long journey for Hunchback. And then there's Anastasia, which will be on Broadway as well, but contrary to popular belief, and despite tell-tale signs of Disney like voice talents of Angela Lansbury and Jim Cummings, it is definitely not a Disney movie.

Favorites From the Day: Addams Family Tour 2.0

Theatre fans may remember that the Broadway musical The Addams Family started a national tour about a year and a half ago now, following its Broadway run. It turns out that though that tour has finished, they are launching a new one with a new cast and yet again, this one is revamped (just like they did when it came from Broadway to a tour). Today on BroadwayWorld.com, I got to cover that tour... twice!

Click on the links to watch the videos and learn more about the new national tour of The Addams Family.

STAGE TUBE: Go Behind the Scenes with the ADDAMS FAMILY Tour!

"Scott Orlesky, technical director and production manager of The Addams Family tour met with Donna Doherty of the New Haven Register to talk about the upcoming national tour, which will launch from New Haven. In this video, he describes how they are 'refitting the show to go out with a brand new cast." (BroadwayWorld.com)





STAGE TUBE: THE ADDAMS FAMILY's Jennifer Fogarty Discusses Family Troubles and More!
"In anticipation of the new Addams Family tour coming to the Auditorium Theatre in Rochester, anchors at ABC 13 spoke to cast member Jennifer Fogarty. Fogarty, who plays Wednesday Addams, talks about her character, 'the princess of darkness,' being able to relate to the Addams Family, and lots more." (BroadwayWorld.com)



The original tour was awesome. I really don't know how they can top it, because it starred one of my favorite actors, Douglas Sills! Then again, I didn't know how they could come close to the Broadway production when I went to see the national tour, but they did a very good job with that.

~Favorites From the Day are articles that I have either edited or written on the day I post~

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Schonberg Says Adding New Song, "Suddenly" to Stage Version of Les Miserables "is a possibility"

As all die-hard theatre fans know, composer/lyricist team Boubil and Schonberg wrote a new song "Suddenly" for the recent Les Miserables movie. This was so that the song could be nominated for and win Best Original Song at the Academy Awards (...and it has been nominated! Step 1 complete! Easy. Now onto Step 2). Now, Schonberg is saying that they may add the song into the stage version as well. I think I just heard an outcry of, "Blasphemy!" come from every Miz Freak. Tony Peters from WhatsOnStage.com reported that at a BAFTA Masterclass, an audience member asked Schonberg if the song might be put on stage, to which he said, "It's possible. It is something we are looking at, although changing stage musicals is like causing earthquakes. So while I’m not saying no, it is a work in progress." 

Don't get me wrong, I liked the placement of the song, and I even liked the song itself. I think it makes total sense to put a song in there to show what Valjean is feeling when he adopts Cosette. However, because it was written almost 30 years after all of the others, the style sounds completely out of place. It really sounds like it wasn't even the same composers. After all, as my dad likes to say, there are really only a few tunes in Les Mis; they just reuse them and set them to different lyrics throughout the show. (Think about it: "On My Own," Fantine's death, and Jean Valjean's death all have the same tune; of course "What Have I Done?" and "Javert's Suicide" symbolically are set to the same tune as you see the contrast between Jean Valjean and Javert's reaction to mercy, and the list goes on)

In this featurette, the makers talk about why they added it, saying that this encompasses a whole chapter from the book.

But wait: there's more! Apparently lyricist Boubil said that they are also thinking of moving the song "I Dreamed a Dream" in the stage show to the spot it is in the movie (In the show, it's right after Fantine gets fired, but for the movie, they changed it to right after "Lovely Ladies" which is later). Now I'm sure we'll find a couple die-hard fans bypassing the outcry and going straight to sobbing in a remote corner.

A lot of people were also wondering why, with the plethora of songs in Les Miserables as it is, Boubil and Schonberg had to write another one to get an Oscar. Well because of the new Academy Awards rules concerning the requirements for a song to win the Oscar for Best Song, Les Miserables, they had to. Ok, well they didn't have to, but a musical not winning any music awards would look lame.

Here's how I understand the Academy rules as of now: it has to be a song originally composed for that movie, and now it has to be sung by one of the characters. It didn't used to be like that. That's why for the Phantom of the Opera movie, they got to put "Learn to be Lonely" into the credits, and they were still nominated for Best Song. That's also why if you look at the list of nominees for Best Song within the last few years, it's ridiculously short. I want to say last year there were only two. But I'm confused because having read the rules, it seems like they changed it back. I have no idea. Try to decipher for yourself on the Academy Awards rules website.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Happy Birthday Robby Benson!

Robby Benson
Today marks the birthday of actor Robin David Segal, AKA: Robby Benson, who, among other things, voiced the Beast in Disney's 1991 animated hit Beauty and the Beast. This sounds strange, but am I the only one who thinks he looks like the Beast/the prince? Maybe it's the eyes. Anyway, he, of course, was also on Broadway.

Robby Benson made his Broadway debut in Zelda, a short-lived 1969 play loosely based on the story of Noah from the Bible. It had twice as many previews as performances. The next year, he was in The Rothschilds. Luckily for him, this was a successful musical which ran for two years and won two of the nine Tony Awards for which it was nominated. He returned to Broadway after a long hiatus to replace Rex Smith in a revival of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance as Frederic. (West End legend Laurie Beechman, for whom a theatre has been named, was a swing in this show) Interestingly, he has the same last name as Jodi Benson, who voiced Ariel in Disney's The Little Mermaid but they are not related.

Besides his stage work, he has done a lot with music. He has lots of composition experience and has released solo albums, including a 20-song soundtrack written to go along with his book I'm not Dead... Yet! which chronicles his experience with heart surgeries.

Robby got his start as an uncredited child actor in Wait Until Dark. Following that, his career took off as a young man, with 30 screen credits (both movies and TV shows) to his name by the time he turned 30. He has voiced the Beast in multiple subsequent Disney princess movies or specials like Belle's Enchanted Christmas and House of Mouse.

Celebrate his birthday by watching a video of him you probably haven't seen. Well, maybe it's not exactly him, per se... Just watch this clip from the Oscars a few years ago.


Read more about...
Robby Benson on Broadway
Robby Benson on screen
Robby Benson and music
Zelda
The Rothschilds
Pirates of Penzance
And read this EW article too!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

News & History: A West End Hit That Couldn't Win Broadway Audiences: Lionel Bart's OLIVER!

1965 Revival
What started out as an article on an upcoming Lionel Bart musical turned into a spotlight on the history of Bart's most famous show, Oliver! for which he wrote the music and lyrics. It morphed because I saw his name and thought, "...But isn't he dead?" Just to clear things up, he indeed died 14 years ago. Anyways, when I looked him up, I laid my eyes on his Broadway track record, which was not as good as I expected. I think of Oliver! as a big Broadway classic, and it is. But if I were a random person who knew nothing about theatre, and I looked up the stats, not only would I think Lionel Bart was basically a loser (in terms of Broadway) who never cranked out a hit, and that Oliver! was just another one of his "almost"s. Keep reading and you'll see why!

Now, just so you know, Oliver! is an old show. Quick overview: It's based on the Dickens novel of basically the same name (Though, Dickens wasn't as fond of exclamation points as Bart must have been, so his book was simply Oliver Twist) about a little boy who just wants a family, but has to go through a terrible orphanage, a gang of young pick-pockets, with some betrayal thrown in there to actually get one.

Here's a clip of "I'd Do Anything" from the original Broadway cast of Oliver!


So here's the surprising part. It premiered in London in 1960 when Bart was 30, then it started its almost 2-year run on Broadway in 1963. Subsequently, it was also revived on Broadway for a month in 1965, then less than a month in 1984 (starring stage star Patti LuPone as Nancy). Between the second and third revivals, another one of Bart's shows starring Broadway legend Bernadette Peters, La Strada, opened at the Lunt-Fontaine theatre on Broadway after twelve previews on December 14, 1969. It closed the same night. So let's just do some math: total, Lionel Bart has only had something on Broadway for 856 performances. Considering that's four shows, with an average of about six or seven performances per show, that's pretty sad.

Since Oliver! is considered a classic, I thought it would have run for much longer. After all, the 1968 movie musical version won six big Oscar awards including best picture, best director, best art direction, best achievement in sound, best musical score, and best choreography, and the original Broadway version won three Tony Awards (including Best Composer and Lyricist, and Best Conductor and Musical Director, neither of which is an actual award anymore). Somehow, it could never catch hold on the Broadway stage.

In contrast, Oliver! ran for 1,366 performances on the West End in its first installment. Besides the original run, it has also been revived multiple times on the West End. The most recent one was 2008-2011, which at some point starred Samantha Barks (now of Les Miserables movie fame) as Nancy. This begs the question: What did the Broadway people do to it? Or was it that Brits have a greater appreciation for musicals about sad little kids than Americans? We know it's not just because Americans don't like foreign musicals. Just a cursory glance at the Broadway record for Andrew Lloyd Webber (minus his recent Jesus Christ Superstar Revival among a few outliers) or the team of Boublil & Schonberg (Les Miserables and Miss Saigon) shows that Americans have loved West End shows. What was wrong with Lionel Bart? That's truly intriguing.

Stay tuned for more information about what I was originally going to write about: Lionel Bart's latest (albeit, posthumous) musical based on a story that you might be familiar with because of Disney!

Read more about everything I mentioned below:
Oliver! on the West End
Lionel Bart's Broadway career
Playbill Vault (nothing I write on this blog would be possible without this site!)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Brian d'Arcy James Sings "Bring Him Home" from Les Miserables!

The phrase "stop the presses" was definitely yelled when I saw the above title on a video. Brian d'Arcy James (favorite) and Les Mis (other favorite)?? As if life couldn't get any better! Actually, as I've previously stated, anything involving BDJ singing brightens up my day. Granted, he's no Colm Wilkinson, but he's still wonderful.

Check out the video below!


BDJ just finished up with Giant, an Off-Broadway play that Entertainment Weekly named the second best stage performance of 2012. Since he won't really be in Smash Season 2 (I'm forever bitter), I'm still waiting to see what he does next! Keep up with him online! www.briandarcyjames.com.

And by the way, Colm Wilkinson is who I also like to call "Mr. Les Mis." He starred as Jean Valjean in the original London and Broadway productions, and he appeared as the Bishop in the recent movie! He is another person I like to call brilliant.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Adam Lambert Asks, "Why Not Cast Actors Who Could Actually Sound Good?" for Les Mis

Adam Lambert (American Idol runner-up and former stage actor) recently decided he needed to tell the Twitter world exactly what he thought of the Les Miserables movie, particularly the vocals. Over 8 Tweets. Bad bad move, sir. I have no idea what would compel anyone to go off on a movie like that, whether or not you agree with him. It's just not classy. But here's a screen shot of the Tweets he sent:

Click on the screen shot below to go to his Twitter and read them all!


After this he did tweet the obligatory "apology," which was basically a "...just saying" kind of remark. Not to sound like an old man, but seriously this instant communication is terrible for this reason! It's too easy to rant and hit send. And that's your pop culture lecture for the day. By Sally Henry.