Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The 3 Modern Broadway Actors Every Self-Respecting Theatre Fan Must Know

Photo Credits (L to R):
I've realized that part of my blog is really a ministry. Of course I love posting fun historical tidbits, obscure trivia, and random Disney lists (which, of late, have morphed into a Frozen shrine), but I also try to educate people about the essentials of Broadway in general. Because who cares if you know all about an obscure Broadway musical if you don't know the basics of this ridiculously important field? The first part of my education series was "10 Tips About How to Talk to a Theatre Nerd," which I'm sure has helped many a layman through a conversation with a Broadway enthusiast. Though Broadway is a field with few (if any) celebrities, I want to show you some names and bios that you need to know by yesterday. I have written extensive pieces on each of them (including some YouTube highlights for each), but here is a quick overview!

1. Norbert Leo Butz 
Norbert is a brilliant actor who has played some awesome roles. He most famously originated the role of Fiyero in the 2003 hit Wicked. Then he won his first Tony Award in 2005 for playing Freddy in the musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels opposite John Lithgow. That was the only Tony that Scoundrels received, foreshadowing the coming years in Butz's career when he would go on to consistently be a shining, award-winning star in flops.

He was also in the less than successful Off-Broadway musical The Last Five Years, which actually became hugely popular after the cast recording was released. There are lots of great songs from it, but my favorite song was actually one that was cut, called "I Could be in Love with Someone Like You" (it was later replaced with "Shiksa Goddess"). Watch this performance. He's amazing!

Butz returned to Broadway in 2011 in Catch Me if You Can the musical to play the crotchety old no-nonsense FBI agent Carl Hanratty. He floored audiences with his performance, winning his second Tony, an Astaire Award, and a Drama Desk Award. His awards were the only ones that Catch Me if You Can received.

I was overjoyed this season when I found out that he would be starring in another musical but then disappointed when it closed after 2 months. I'm betting he will be nominated for Best Actor in a Musical for Big Fish, but we'll have to wait and see when the nominations come out.

Out of the 13 awards for which he has been nominated (including an Astaire Award, Drama League Award, as well as multiple Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and Tony Awards), he has won 7.

2. Brian d'Arcy James (BDJ)
Whenever I say Brian d'Arcy James's name, it's usually followed by an, "Awww I love him!" He seems to often play the sweet guy who's relentlessly dedicated to his lady, and I have absolutely fallen in love with those characters. So far, BDJ has been in ten Broadway shows, beginning with his Broadway debut in 1993 in the uber-dramatic Blood Brothers. He made what he calls his "breakout performance" as the lovesick Frederick Barrett in Titanic the 1997 musical. Seriously, my heart just about melts every time I hear that song. He's completely precious and wonderful. Ok fine, just watch it right now!

In 2000, BDJ received a Drama Desk Award nomination for his performance in the Off-Broadway production of Wild Party with Idina Menzel. He then received his first Tony Award nomination for the short-lived musical Sweet Smell of Success opposite John Lithgow in 2002. Actually, he took over the role of Freddy in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels after Norbert Leo Butz left, though BDJ only got to be in it for two months before it closed.  He also played Dan in the original Off-Broadway version of Next to Normal but accepted the title role in Shrek before it was clear that N2N was heading to Broadway. So sad. And of course, he also appeared in NBC's Broadway drama Smash which I boycotted after he was kicked off at the beginning of season two. Actually my reasons for jumping off the Smash train also involved hating Katharine McPhee's character, but BDJ leaving was the last straw. He's just wonderful.

3. Brian Stokes Mitchell (BSM)
This man has the voice of an angel. I first heard him on the Ragtime original cast album and fell in love. His very extensive Broadway resume includes starring roles in Ragtime, Kiss Me Kate, and Man of La Mancha, to name a few. He earned Tony nominations for Best Actor in a Musical for each of these, plus a nomination for Best Actor in a Play in King Hedley II. My first reaction when I read that he did not win the Tony for playing Coalhouse Walker in Ragtime was total incredulity, but then I realized that that year (1998) he was up against one Alan Cumming for Cabaret. Ok, Cumming, I'll give you that one.

His most famous performance is probably "Wheels of a Dream" from Ragtime, but actually my favorite performance of his is a random video I found of him rehearsing "Bui Doi" from Miss Saigon. He was rehearsing for some concert, but I have no idea when or where that was, and I don't really care, because this is perfection.

Fortunately, BSM did win the second Tony for which he was nominated, for Fred Graham/Petrucio in Kiss Me Kate at the 2000 Tony Awards. That year, the competition was stiff as well, but he beat out Mandy Patinkin for Wild Party, Craig Bierko for The Music Man, Christopher Walken for James Joyce's The Dead, and George Hearn for Putting it Together. Out of the 14 award nominations he has received (across Tonys, Theatre World, Outer Critics Circle, and Drama Desk), he has only won four, three of which were for Kiss Me Kate. He's just brilliant.

So the moral of this story is: to be adored by a Broadway blogger, all you need is a 3-name moniker.

Sally Henry // Twitter: // Facebook:

Read More:
All about Norbert Leo Butz
All about Brian d'Arcy James
All about Brian Stokes Mitchell

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