Norbert Leo Butz is not exactly a household name—but to Broadway fans it’s a familiar one. The Maplewood resident is a two-time Tony Award winner for his leading roles in Catch Me If You Can and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels; last year he starred on Broadway in Big Fish.
The actor, 47, is less heralded for championing the cause of preventing violence against women. In 2009, Butz’s sister Teresa was raped and murdered in her Seattle home. Since then he has declined roles that involve the degradation or violation of women “to tease or titillate an audience.”
His empathy for women has fueled a new endeavor: April 8 to 13 at the 54 Below supper club in Manhattan, Butz will stage Girls, Girls, Girls, a concert about female archetypes. New Jersey Monthly spoke to the actor about the concert and his future projects.
New Jersey Monthly: “Girls, Girls, Girls” sounds like a rock’n’roll show, a little Guns’n’Roses. Is it?
Norbert Leo Butz: The music is a broad spectrum of rock’n’roll, country, folk and jazz. I have a full band and play acoustic and electric guitar.
NJM: Where do the female archetypes come in?
NLB: It’s an evening of songs based on Greek goddesses—songs that are focused on deities. For example Aphrodite, who was the goddess of sexual unity. She was sort of the ultimate feminine goddess. She loved having affairs with military men. So I sing Kenny Rogers’s “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” which is about a legendary hot wife who goes out looking for love from all these other men.
NJM: Sounds fun. Also sounds like unusual material for a guy performer.
NLB: I have three sisters, three daughters and 18 nieces, believe it or not [Butz, born in St. Louis, is one of 11 siblings]. So it’s natural for me to want to explore my relationships with women. I’ve learned a lot.
NJM: Your daughters from your first marriage are 15 and 17, and you have a 3-year-old with your current wife, the actress Michelle Butz. You’ve been living here since 2000. What attracted you to New Jersey?
NLB: My wife and I and so many of the actors out here are people who have found a balance in their artistic lives. Our agents and casting directors are in the city—that’s where the industry is. But we also want our kids to be able to walk home from school and play with their neighbors. And tree swings. I wanted a tree swing for my kids. Here you can have that.
NJM: You and Michelle are part of Midtown Direct Rep, the theater troupe based at South Orange Performing Arts Center that culls Broadway actors and actresses from Maplewood and South Orange.
NLB: There’s a couple dozen people in MDR, really gifted writers and performers, and we’ve all become friends. We have that need to connect, so we’ll get together and do a play reading in someone’s living room. And Sandy and Jeremy [Sandy Rustin Fleischer and Jeremy Dobrish, MDR’s co-artistic directors] have brought great things to SOPAC, readings and performances. I haven’t been able to do as much performing as I’d like [with MDR], but I’m working on finding new material we can develop.
NJM: Big Fish ended its Broadway run not long ago. What’s next?
NLB: I’m in a real transition stage. I’ve been onstage nonstop, so I’m not going to do any theater for a while. I’m going to sit back and reassess. And I’m going to keep singing. We tried out [Girls, Girls, Girls] last year at 54 Below and it was really well received. And it’s connected to an issue I feel passionate about; I have a gut response to women as victims. This is a great night of song, and a way of celebrating women.