Norbert Leo Butz is currently starring in one of our favorite musicals of all time – My Fair Lady – which just opened at Lincoln Center. Get tickets, and then read our oldie but goodie interview with him below…
You may have noticed that we’re big fans of the theatre here at The New Potato, and there’s nothing we love more than a Broadway man – especially one who knows his way around a menu. Meet Norbert Leo Butz: three-time Tony Award winner, star of Bloodline and Mercy Street, and one of our personal favorites (Seriously, we’ve loved him since Wicked). With his new album Girls, Girls, Girls debuting today, we figured we’d take the opportunity to sit down with the Broadway star to get some restaurant recommendations, find out what he eats for breakfast, and ask the age old question: what do women need to know about men?
From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?
A strong cup of a good Italian roast coffee with a splash of real cream to start. Make it two cups. Then a bowl of oatmeal with a handful of walnuts, brown sugar, blueberries and, if in season, fresh nectarine. So, so good.
Lunch would be something leftover in the fridge, maybe rice and chicken or a piece of the homemade pizza that my wife likes to make. She is such a great cook; I am a very lucky man. Recently, she made a homemade pizza with spinach, grilled onion, mushroom and some kind of ground sausage. Fantastic.
Dinner would be grilled pork chops, my wife’s cauliflower hash (made with coconut oil and cilantro), and one of her awesome signature salads drizzled with a fresh citrus dressing. Basically, my ideal food day is one in which my wife does all the cooking!
Oh, and we are a little obsessed with this fruit crumble recipe she found in the Gwyneth Paltrow cookbook. (At least I think that’s where she got it.) It’s really healthy too, because the recipe calls for ground almonds instead of flour and maple syrup instead of sugar – tons of protein and not a lot of sugar. Of course, I like it with half gallon of vanilla bean ice cream, so there’s that…
How do you start your day? What’s your go to breakfast?
Well always, coffee. Gotta be rich, gotta be strong. I’m really into oatmeal. I know that sounds boring but I can doctor a plain bowl of oats like you wouldn’t believe. Like a lot of guys in their late 40’s, I was told the cholesterol was getting high, so I’m determined to get that number down. I do the whole flax and chia seed blend in the oatmeal for the extra protein and other good stuff. If that’s not available, I’m pretty good with eating something from Dunkin Donuts as well.
Your new album GIRLS, GIRLS, GIRLS is inspired by all the women in your life! What’s something men don’t know about women that they should? What’s something women don’t know about men that they should?
Men should know that crying for women is not always emotional manipulation. A lot of guys are still threatened or confused or irritated by big displays of emotion from their women, by lots of tears. I have learned that I don’t have to assume those emotions are anything other than what they are. It’s just energy that needs to get out. And it’s my job to keep my mouth shut and be present and not try to stop or control or intellectualize my wife’s, or my daughters’ emotional experiences.
A lot of women don’t know that men require, on the whole, a fair amount of isolation to spiritually and emotionally reengage. Many women equate alone time with abandonment, and while that can certainly be true, it is not, in fact, THE truth. (If that makes any sense?)
You’re a theater favorite of ours, we have seen you in everything from Wicked and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, to Fifty Words! How has theater changed since you started your career?
Oh Lord. What a question! I’m of two minds about this one. Part of me suspects not much at all has changed. The business of show and the art of show have always been, and always will be, in a free market economy, at necessary and predictable odds. The public dictates what it wants to see. Business men and women compete for the widest piece of that pie.
On the other hand, I’m taking my wife and three daughters to see Hamilton in a couple of weeks, and, after parking and tolls, the evening will cost me over one thousand dollars. I know for a fact my parents took me and all 10 of my siblings to the beach for a week for that same amount of money when I was a kid. I can’t say what is more “valuable” – being near the ocean, sun and sand, outside in nature, or seeing a Broadway musical, even a brilliant one, for 2 1/2 hours. I’m not suggesting that it’s quantifiable but what has changed, I think, is the rate at which prices are increasing. And, the speed at which the middle and working classes are becoming obsolete in conversations about the American theatre. They will no longer be part of the audience, and I do think that is a significant change.
What are your favorite theater venues in NYC?
I like the smaller spaces. I like the new spaces at The Signature Theatre. I like the Theatre at St. Ann’s. I like the teeny tiny Cherry Lane Theatre. Maybe because I’ve worked on a lot of great big stages, when I want to see a play, I like the intimate ones.
Where should everyone in NYC go for a pre-theater meal?
How about a post-theater meal or drinks?
What’s the best advice you ever received? The worst?
The best advice was to change my name. I didn’t take it, but you can’t argue that it was very good advice. The worst? To get an Instagram account. I did take that advice, and I am paying for it dearly.
What are your favorite cities for food?
St. Louis, Mo
What restaurants do you go to in each?
I shoot the PBS series Mercy Street and the best part of the gig is shooting in Richmond, VA. Holy Crap, the food is amazing. Best Italian ever is Mama Zu. There is an awesome German place called Metzger Bar & Butchery that is incredible, too. That city has it all.
I love working on Bloodline for the same reason. We shoot way down in the Keys and the seafood is, not surprisingly, wonderful. There is a place called The Fish House in Key Largo that I love. It’s totally unpretentious, you can sit at a bar and watch baseball and eat grouper or mahi or snapper straight from that morning’s catch. Pierre’s is great for an elegant date night, but you can still wear sandals! I get my coffee every morning at a wonderful breakfast place called Midway Cafe. They roast their own coffee and bake their own bread and muffins. It’s run by a wonderful bunch of smart, sweet hippies. Great place.
St. Louis is my hometown and maybe I’m partial, but I love eating there. Broadway Oyster Bar, Pappy’s Smokehouse, Blues City Deli. Yum, yum, yum. And for dessert, always and forever, Ted Drewes Frozen Custard.
If you could host a dinner party with any five people living or dead who would you have over?
Richard Price (novelist), Mark Twain, Amy Schumer, James Brown and, I don’t know, what the hell, Socrates.
If you were to perform, what song would you sing?
Perhaps Love Hurts? Total Eclipse of the Heart? Crocodile Rock? With that group, the mind simply boggles.