Norbert Leo Butz Reveals That He Wouldn't Be A Tony Winner Without Rent
August 11th, 2016
by Josh Ferri
Two-time Tony Award winner and all around Broadway favorite Norbert Leo Butz is blowing the roof off of Feinstein’s/54 Below with the return engagement of his acclaimed, badass show Girls, Girls, Girls. (The show plays through August 12, but you can get the album if you miss it.)
Some fast Norbert Leo Butz background: he won his Tony Awards for playing Freddy Benson in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Agent Carl Hanratty in Catch Me If You Can.
He originated leading roles in iconic musicals like Wicked and The Last Five Years.
Though, he's endured heartbreak with short runs in Broadway’s Big Fish, Enron, Dead Accounts and Thou Shalt Not.
Photo by Joan Marcus, Carol Rosegg, Paul Klonik
And, of course, Netflix bingers know Norbert as Kevin Rayburn, one of the many screwed up family members, on the series Bloodline.
BroadwayBox caught up with Norbert to talk about which of his amazing career credits he considers the game-changer, and he talked about his singular experience joining the OBC of Rent.
Photo by Joan Marcus
I was so lucky that I joined the original cast of Rent back at the end of ‘96. I had just arrived in New York and I didn’t have an agent. I was on the older side of moving to New York—a couple months shy of my 29 birthday. I had spent the earlier part of my 20s getting a master’s degree and doing theatre around the country, writing music and playing music, but not really doing musicals.
Rent had just exploded, and they were looking for a cover for Anthony Rapp and Adam Pascal, and I got that very coveted spot. I went to an open call, had three days of rehearsal, and went on in that lead role. It was a shock to my system. I had never done a professional musical before, believe it or not. My first time was singing Roger in Rent. It changed me in a way because it wasn’t what I set out to do. I didn’t have an aspiration to do Broadway—I was looking to do classical theatre, maybe eventually film or television—and I tripped into Rent, then came Cabaret, and the work just kept coming and I kept pursuing it. Rent really, really changed my course, and I think out of necessity I learned how to do something I was really untrained to do. I learned on the job.
The other way that show changed my life, and the course of my career, was watching the commitment and passion of the original cast members. Never before, and maybe never really since, have I seen a group of people so united and so egoless in telling a story that is way bigger than themselves. They were called to a much higher purpose and it was very real to that company. I was the first one to take over one of the original roles full-time, and I tried to hold onto those ideals and keep them throughout. It’s almost immeasurable how much Rent changed me.
Photo by Joan Marcus
See Norbert Leo Butz in Girls, Girls, Girls at 54 through August 12.