Who's Who in Musicals:
by John Kenrick
Butz, Norbert Leo
b. Jan. 30, 1967 (St. Louis, MO)
The seventh of eleven children, this handsome and personable baritone made his Broadway debut in 1996 taking over the role of Roger in Rent. He received his first Tony nomination for playing Camille Raquin in the ill-fated Thou Shalt Not (2001), where his barefoot song and dance was a highlight. He toured as the Emcee in Cabaret, created the role of Jamie Wellerstein in Jason Robert Brown's off-Broadway hit The Last Five Years (2002), and originated the role of Fiyero in the Broadway hit Wicked (2003). Butz achieved stardom with his performance as the conniving Freddy in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (2005) winning the Tony and Drama Desk awards for Best Actor in a Musical. After impressive non-musical performances in such Broadway productions as Is He Dead? (2007), the revival of Speed-the-Plow (2008) and Enron (2010), the versatile Butz won a second set of Tony and Drama Desk awards for originating the role of FBI agent Carl Hanratty in Catch Me If You Can (2011).
(b. Kristi Dawn Chenoweth)
b. July 24, 1968 (Broken Arrow, OK)
After making her professional debut in the Paper Mill Playhouse revival of Animal Crackers (1993), this vivacious, petite (she stands 4' 11") and vocally arresting coloratura soprano received favorable attention in several off-Broadway roles before winning the coveted Theatre World award for her performance as Precious Maguire in Kander & Ebb's short-lived Broadway musical Steel Pier (1997). After appearing in the Encores revival of Strike Up the Band (1998) and the original cast of William Finn's A New Brain (1998), Chenoweth received rave reviews and a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance as Sally in the Broadway version of You're a Good Man Charlie Brown (1999). After starring in the short-lived Broadway comedy Epic Proportions (1999), she won fresh praise as Daisy in the Encores presentation of On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (2000). While dividing her time between stage and TV engagements over the next few years, she turned out the highly acclaimed solo CD "Let Yourself Go" (2001).
Chenoweth enjoyed her greatest stage triumph to date originating the role of Galinda in Wicked (2003). After a stint in the hit NBC series The West Wing, she made a triumphant appearance as Cunegonde in a 2004 NY Philharmonic concert production of Candide. After starring to great acclaim in the revival of The Apple Tree (2006) and the Encores productions of Stairway to Paradise (2007) and Music in the Air (2009), she appeared as Fran in the Broadway revival of Promises, Promises (2010). Admired by fans and colleagues, she is one of the brightest talents on the musical stage today.
Actor, singer, librettist, playwright
(b. Harvey Forbes Fierstein)
b. June 6, 1952 (Brooklyn, NY)
With an extraordinary comic flair, this raspy voiced Brooklyn native rose to fame as a female impersonator in New York nightclubs before winning twin Tony Awards as author and star of the hit play Torch Song Trilogy (1982). He proved the perfect choice to write the libretto for Jerry Herman's La Cage Aux Folles (1983), which brought him a third Tony for Best Book of a Musical. After appearing in the brief Broadway run of his play Spookhouse (1987), he took over as book writer for Legs Diamond (1988), but was unable to breathe much life into that ill-conceived project. Fierstein developed a national following with roles in such films as Mrs. Doubtfire, Bullets Over Broadway and the screen version of Torch Song Trilogy. He became one of the most widely recognized and eloquent advocates for gay civil rights, and a led efforts to raise awareness of the HIV-AIDS epidemic and assist those affected by it.
Fierstein returned to Broadway as "Edna Turnblad," the overweight and infinitely loving mother in Hairspray (2002) -- for which he received his fourth Tony, becoming the only person ever to win Best Actor in a Musical while playing a female role. In 2005, he proved his versatility by taking over the role of "Tevye" in a revival of Fiddler on the Roof, winning widespread praise. He provided the libretto and played the role of "Uncle Winston" in the short-lived musical version of A Catered Affair (2008), and has delighted fans by joining the cast of the Tony-winning Broadway revival of La Cage Aux Folles in 2011 to at long last play the role of "Albin." After writing the libretto for the successful stage adaptation of Newsies (2012), he did the same for the acclaimed hit Kinky Boots (2013).
Actress, singer, dancer
b. March 18, 1975 (Statesboro, GA)
One of the most popular musical stars of our time, this versatile actress with a powerhouse belt voice left high school in 1993 to appear in the national tour of The Will Rogers Follies. After making her Broadway debut understudying Sandy Dumbrowski in the first Broadway revival of Grease in 1996, she joined the NY ensemble of Les Miserables, appeared as Star to Be in the first revival of Annie (1997), then joined the ensemble of The Scarlet Pimpernel. During out of town tryouts, she took over the title role in the stage adaptation of Thoroughly Modern Millie (2002), and her acclaimed performance brought her the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical. During the run, she met Christian Borle when he took over the role of Jimmy; they married in 2006, but have since separated.
After playing Jo March in the short-lived musical version of Little Women (2005), she originated the role of starlet Janet van de Graaff in the musical spoof The Drowsy Chaperone (2006). She created the role of Inga in the musical adaptation of Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein (2007), then was the original Princess Fiona in Shrek The Musical (2008). At a time when Broadway careers are increasingly difficult to maintain, Foster had managed the astounding feat of originating five leading roles on Broadway in just six years. After she portrayed Nurse Apple in the Encores 2010 concert production of the cult classic Anyone Can Whistle, she received rave reviews as Reno Sweeney in a smash revival of Anything Goes (2011), winning her second Tony for Best Actress in a Musical. Sutton is the sister of actor and librettist Hunter Foster.
b. April 16, 1976 (Oklahoma)
This attractive, blonde soprano appeared in the Broadway ensemble of Jekyll & Hyde (2000) and the first revival of Follies (2001), before originating the role of Susan in Sweet Smell of Success (2002). After appearing in the title role of the off-Broadway musical Life With Albertine (2003), she played Lucy in the disastrous Dracula, The Musical (2004), she won praise playing the beautiful but unstable Clara Johnson in The Light in the Piazza (2005). O'Hara earned raves as Babe Williams in the Roundabout Theatre revival of The Pajama Game (2006). After appearing as Eliza Doolittle in a NY Philharmonic concert staging of My Fair Lady (2007), she triumphed as Nellie Forbush in the smash hit Lincoln Center revival of South Pacific (2008). She then starred as Ella Peterson in the Encores concert production of Bells Are Ringing (2010).
(b. Maria Ligaya Carmen Imutan Salonga)
b. Feb. 22, 1971, Angeles City, Phillipines
Although small in physical stature, a powerhouse voice and extraordinary dramatic vulnerability have made this gifted woman the most popular Asian musical star of her time. After making her professional debut at age seven in a production of The King and I, she appeared in numerous Phillipine stage productions, including a run in the title role of Annie. At 17, she was chosen to originate the role of Kim in the London production of Miss Saigon (1989), and received an Olivier Award for her acclaimed performance. She repeated the role in the 1991 Broadway production, winning the Tony and Drama Desk Awards.
Salonga's film credits include providing the voices for two beloved Disney animated heroines, Princess Jasmine in Aladdin (1992) and the title character in Mulan (1998). When Rodgers and Hammerstein's Flower Drum Song returned to Broadway in 2002 with a new libretto by David Henry Hwang, Salonga won fresh praise originating the reconceived role of Chinese immigrant Mei Li. She has starred in numerous productions in the Phillipines, where she debuted an extended international tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella in 2008. A popular concert and recording artist, she has been a columnist for the Phillipine Daily Enquirer. Her US television appearances have included the recurring role of Lien Hughes in the U.S. soap opera As the World Turns, and a guest role on the popular medical drama ER.
(b. Avrom Hirsch Goldbogen)
b. June 22, 1909 (Minneapolis, MI) - d. Mar. 22, 1958 (Grants, NM)
One of nine children in a poor immigrant family, his siblings made fun of him for mispronouncing the word "coat" -- resulting in his nickname "Todd." Expelled from 6th Grade for running an in-school crap game, he got his first taste of theatre presenting The Mikado in his high school. Todd dropped out, and after various odd jobs, made and lost his first million dollars in real estate. An inveterate gambler, he would eventually make and lose several fortunes. After some success in night clubs, he made his Broadway debut producing two short-lived comedies, then presented The Hot Mikado (1939) starring Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.
Todd's racy revue Star and Garter (1942) co-starring burlesque veterans Bobby Clark and Gypsy Rose Lee was a major wartime hit, as was his lavish production of Cole Porter's Something for the Boys (1943) with Ethel Merman. A true showman, Todd's seventeen Broadway productions ranged in style from the high camp of Mae West as Catherine the Great (1944) to the high art of Maurice Evans as Hamlet (1945). His musicals included Cole Porter's raucous Mexican Hayride (1944) and Sigmund Romberg's elegant Up in Central Park (1945). After the death of his first wife Bertha, he was married to actress Joan Blondell from 1947 to 1950. The handsome and charismatic Todd was also romantically linked to various celebrities, including Gypsy Rose Lee.
Bucking the post-Oklahoma trend toward artistically integrated musicals, Todd found success presenting "tall dames and low comedy" in As the Girls Go (1948) and the blatantly titled Michael Todd's Peep Show (1950). In 1952, the 8200 seat Jones Beach Amphitheatre opened with Todd's spectacular outdoor staging of A Night in Venice, running for two summers. After that mammoth effort, Todd concentrated on film projects, promoting the Cinerama and Todd-AO wide-screen technologies, and producing the epic Around the World in 80 Days (1956). In 1957, he married actress Elizabeth Taylor. Just over a year later, 48 year old Todd was killed when his private plane crashed in New Mexico. He was portrayed by Mike Burstyn in the unsuccessful semi-fictional musical Ain't Broadway Grand (1993).