Review: Norbert Leo Butz

NorbertLeoButz

Norbert Leo Butz is a very smart and intensely gifted actor, who could probably do an astonishing turn in Hamlet. As fate would have it, he has become primarily known as a musical comedy actor of prodigious energy and daring. In his cabaret show, “Girls, Girls, Girls” we find Norbert trying to sort out his relationships with the women in his life – and there are a lot of them: three daughters, three sisters, a wife and ex-wife, mothers-in-law, 17 nieces. He takes advice from a feminist professor friend, who suggests he reads up on feminine archetypes. He does, and for the rest of the act goes through a catalog of songs that match up these archetypes.

“Girls, Girls, Girls” is a very thoughtful show, which is icing on the cake of seeing this magnetic, kinetic performer sing…well, anything at all. He has acting and musical chops for days, and is capable of injecting fire into any material to which he turns his hand. It’s most gratifying, though, to see this “guy’s guy” look so intelligently and compassionately into the female psyche.

While Butz is best known as the consummate Broadway musical character actor-singer, this act skews more heavily into rock and singer/songwriter territory. That said, these days that world overlaps with Broadway more and more; his opening number is “Yoshimi” from the album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots by neo-psychedelic noise rockers The Flaming Lips – which is being turned into a Broadway musical.

He proves himself one of the best male interpretative singers of his generation. To wit, I’ve never been a great fan of “Come On Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners – I mean I can’t deny that it is a near perfect pop earworm, I just think it’s too perfect an earworm, to the point of high annoyance. If however, the vocal delivery in the original had been as fine as Norbert’s (covering the archetype of “the maiden” as described by psychology giant Carl Jung) I would probably love it just as much as its many fans.

Traveling from the point of view of a dad who “just doesn’t understand” to one that embraces androgyny as the deepest truth and the wave of the future (to the tune of Hedwig‘s “Wig in a Box”), the journey that Norbert takes us on is the kind of arc I always hope for in a cabaret act. Recommended.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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