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Next up to be reviewed in Broadway Records excellent Live At (Feinstein’s) 54 Below is a rather curious release from, in my opinion, one of the freshest voices in musical theatre, Norbert Leo Butz. Two-time Tony Award® winner Norbert Leo Butz (and star of Netflix’s acclaimed series, Bloodline) follows up his critically lauded first album Memory & Mayhem – Live at 54 Below with a new live album of the show that The New York Times hailed as “brilliantly audacious… deeper and richer than any conventional Broadway musical.” Inspired by Greek female deities, the show illustrates the treatment of women in classical myth and contemporary society. The song selections range from Loretta Lynn and Elvis Costello to Hedwig and the Angry Inch and Johnny Cash.
Norbert is currently appearing on the Netflix series Bloodline (season two released spring 2016) and the PBS Civil War drama Mercy Street (debuted January 2016). For his work on Broadway, he is a two-time Tony Award winner (Best Actor in a Musical) for Catch Me If You Can (Drama Desk Award, Best Actor in a Musical) and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Astaire and Drama League awards, Best Actor in a Musical). Other Broadway credits include Big Fish, Dead Accounts, Enron, Speed-the-Plow, Is He Dead?, Wicked, Thou Shalt Not (Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics nominations) and Rent.
As mentioned above, this recording is of his 54 Below show, based around the female Greek deities, and is a step away from his usual faire. Norbert has a sublime voice, and is a great actor. The whole CD is a great ‘experience’, and is a perfect mix of eclectic numbers, mixed with his well measured and interesting commentary. You can tell just from listening to the excellent recording that this would have been a great evening to be part of. Broadway Records, as always, have captured the evening perfectly on the recording, and it’s another example as to why Broadway Records are leading the way in Broadway-related releases at the moment. No-one else is doing this type of release, and if anyone does try to copy them, then they will have a long way to go to match Broadway Record’s quality and attention to detail.
I must admit to not knowing many of the tracks on the release (apart from 'Come On Eileen', a favourite song of mine from my teenage years) but there are several songs and performances of note here. 'Gateway To Graceland' is just a superb song, as is 'Jolene' - and Norbert’s voice is perfectly suited to each, pulling all of the meaning out of the lyrics. I also enjoyed 'Martha' by Tom Waitt - I need to listen to more of Waitt’s work - and the finale versions of 'Sweet Lorraine' were a surprising hit for me.
The album sounds crystal clear, and it’s great to hear a full band at 54 Below. This, coupled with the excellent narrative, make this a very pleasing listen indeed.