Norbert Leo Butz Returns to Feinstein’s/54 Below

Norbert Leo Butz

 

by Adam Cohen

 

Two-time Tony Award-winner Norbert Leo Butz returns to Feinstein’s/54 Below with an updated version of his show Memory & Mayhem which features pop, folk, musical theatre, rock ‘n’ roll, and blues songs linked by the subject of memory. Butz bares his soul, wry humor, romantic life and parenthood through music, live on stage backed by an amazing band. Norbert Leo Butz is the two-time Tony Award winning star of Big Fish, Catch Me If You Can, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Wicked, and The Last 5 Years, as well as Netflix’s Bloodline and PBS’ Mercy Street.

Memories & Mayhem features a variety of songs by Jimmy Webb, Jason Robert Brown, Andrew Lippa, Van Morrison, Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell, and original tunes by Butz.

Butz, spry, soulful, and gritty with all music, even playing guitar on a few – especially his own poignant compositions.  The orginals veer from reflecting on observing a wedding, as his marriage was ending, with lyrics like “it’s over but I can’t let it go” to stumbling towards new love.  His passion and fascination with memory allows for riffs on parts of the brain like the hippocampus and amygdala (“which sounds like a Game of Thrones princess”) while launching into a variety of songs.  His zeal and soul were clearly on display throughout, most especially on the original songs.

The set tracks his personal history while intermingling with his professional life with  “I Could Be In Love With Someone Like You” from The Last Five Years and “Fight The Dragons” from Big Fish.  Both were beautiful in the hands of the five person band capably led by musical director Michael J. Moritz, Jr.  Butz’ voice was purest on the Broadway tracks while applying grit to Van Morrison’s “The Way Young Lovers Do”.  He brought absolute soul to “Georgia on my Mind” dedicated to his youngest daughter.

Memory proves to be a resonant, successful theme for this concert.  The songs pave the way for observations about the interlocking of memories and emotion, interweaving sadness, joy, and even horror. How, when we reflect on a lost love, they become nobler, but despite the sadness and horror, it is usually the positive emotions we honor and embrace.  Butz proves he has more to offer than the musical comedy he has become known for. Songs range from American songbook classics to jazz, blues, folk, soul, country with a pinch of musical theatre and Elton John thrown in for good measure.  Each track clearly means something to him as he discusses his marriages and “childrens” he takes us through the highs and lows that have shaped him today.  This is an intimate evening with beautiful singing, a great band, and a fine outing for Butz.  One looks forward to his next endeavor – musical or not.

Norbert Leo But performs the mix of songs and stories September 10, 12, 13, 14 at 9:30 PM and September 13 at 7 PM.   Tickets and information at 54below.com.

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