Ahhhh… Tony time. A time when the Broadway-loving community is ablaze with an equal mix of excitement for their most-loved nominees and utter disdain for the nominators who snubbed some of their favorite performers. I know, I know. Bette Midler not nominated? What a shame. No love for Alan Cumming? How dare they. Some of these nomination-lacking upsets outweigh others, but I wanted to take a second to focus on one that might have slipped under your radar entirely: Norbert Leo Butz.
I’m sure you’ve heard of him. Norbert Leo Butz is a world-class actor that has been gracing the Broadway stage since he first replaced Adam Pascal in Rent in 1996. Since then, he has become one of Broadway’s most revered and multifaceted actors, picking up multiple Drama Desk and Tony Awards along the way (not to mention an Astaire Award!). You may know him as the original Fiyero in Wicked, Freddy in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels or Carl Hanratty in Catch Me If You Can. On the other hand, you may be more familiar with his work in plays such as Is He Dead?, Enron and Speed-the-Plow. You also can’t forget his off-Broadway collaborations with Jason Robert Brown in the original Songs for a New World and The Last Five Years. In case you have yet to get the drift, there is simply nothing that this man cannot do. I’m fairly positive that the dictionary lists “See Norbert Leo Butz” as the definition for words such as “versatile” and “committed.”
Okay. Perhaps I’m getting a little carried away. But, the fact of the matter is, we should all appreciate the incredibly refined skills of this great actor. This is a man that redefines what it means to throw yourself into a role at every performance. And last fall, Butz did it again in Theresa Rebeck‘s new play, Dead Accounts. Starring opposite Katie Holmes, Butz portrayed a nervous and unpredictable New York businessman who was returning to his rural hometown after funneling millions of dollars from untouched bank accounts. In a play that, well, fell short of fantastic, Butz commanded presence to a degree that the New York Times compared to pyrotechnics. It was an electric performance to say the least, and oddly touching as well. This was a hugely flawed and confused man that Butz still delivered as an endearing yet conflicted individual. What more could you want out of a performance?
Apparently for Tony nominators, it would help if your name is Tom Hanks. Or Tom Sturridge. Or Nathan Lane. Or… Well, you get the picture. Don’t get me wrong- I appreciate all of these other performances just as much as the next person. They all deserve the recognition. But, it’s unfortunate when a quick flop can cause an incredible performance to be forgotten. So, this is my short and sweet homage to Norbert, for every time that I rush to see him in a new role, and for every time that he doesn’t disappoint. Dead Accounts may not be bringing him his third Tony, but I’m sure the right show is just around the corner. Who knows, it might be coming even sooner than we expect! In fact, Butz is returning to the Great White Way with the new Andrew Lippa musical, Big Fish, this fall. With a great composer and a stunning creative team led by Susan Stroman, my hopes are high for yet another delicious evening of theater brought to me by Mr. Norbert Leo Butz. Until then, I hope everyone can take a second to appreciate Butz, who I believe is one of the greatest stage actors of our time.
I’ll get down off my soapbox now.