Critical Confabulations

a theatre, film & pop culture review

20 Days of Theatrical Thanks: Day 12

Today I’m thankful for… non-musical theatre actors starring in musicals.

Norbert Leo Butz in Catch Me If You Can.

I used to be of the mind that the most important part of a musical was, well, the music. While I haven’t entirely changed my mind about that, I no longer prefer that a song be sung well over being acted well. Of course, in an ideal world, every song will be sung and acted equally brilliantly. But sometimes — sometimes — a performer comes along who has no musical theatre training and proceeds to kill it.

These are my favorite performers. The one who first — and always — comes to mind is the incomparable Norbert Leo Butz, who floats effortlessly between the two forms, defying categorization of (musical theatre) actor. He’s currently in the Theresa Rebeck comedy Dead Accounts, was last seen off-Broadway in Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive, and before that was the only non-awful part of the abysmal musical Catch Me If You Can, for which he won a Tony. Because he’s never anything short of brilliant (I’ve yet to read a review that says otherwise).

Bertie Carvel and Lara Pulver in Parade.

Raúl Esparza is another of these jack-of-all-trades (though he’s not always as successful as Butz), and Bertie Carvel is, too,  one of these mysterious entities who may not have the voice of a god (re: Norm Lewis), but who acts the shit out of any role thrown his way. Ok, so I’ve only ever  seen him in the Donmar Warehouse’s production of Parade — his first ever foray into musical theatre —  but he was revelatory. And now he’s making his Broadway debut in the critically-acclaimed Matilda, and I’m thrilled about it.

Perhaps it’s because these actors can’t simply fall back on their musicianship — maybe they feel compelled to make up for any perceived lack on their parts, vocals-wise — but their ability to act a song transcends their ability to sing it, and they’re always so much more interesting to watch because of it.

For more info about 20 Days of Thanks, go here.

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