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

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