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The Butler Does It!

Xanadu star Kerry Butler takes a walk on the wild side as part of NBC's Lipstick Jungle. logo
Kerry Butler in Lipstick Jungle
(© NBC)
Kerry Butler must have an advanced degree in juggling she's never told anyone about. The popular actress is not only balancing being the star of the hit Broadway musical Xanadu -- including a special Valentine's Day appearance at Macy's Herald Square -- with being mother to toddler Segi, whom she adopted from Ethiopia. She's also getting ready to record her first solo CD and recently finished filming a recurring role on NBC's new series Lipstick Jungle (based on the novel by Sex and the City scribe Candace Bushnell). Butler phoned TheaterMania while undergoing some physical therapy to talk about her various projects.

THEATERMANIA: Tell me a little about your character on the series.
KERRY BUTLER: Her name is Reese, and she's the assistant to Lindsay Price's character, Victory, who is a fashion designer. When you first see her, she seems like this sweet girl from Wisconsin, but she eventually turns evil and steals her boss' designs, like Eve Harrington. I don't want to give too much away, but I even had to have a stunt double

TM: How did you get the part? Did you know Lindsay beforehand?
KB: No. I knew of Lindsay, because I was a huge Beverly Hills 90210 fan. I told her I loved her from that show when we met, and she laughed. She's really fun on the show, and we connected instantly. But I originally auditioned for the director Tim Busfield, who had seen me in Hairspray (where Butler originated the role of Penny) and he told me he wanted to use me ever since then. Tim walked me through the scenes at the audition and was a huge help once we filmed. He told me to do much less. Primetime is very different from daytime in some ways (Butler starred on One Life to Live) in that you wait longer for the set-ups; but you still don't get lots of takes.

TM: Right now, you're working on putting together your first solo CD. Can you tell us what to expect?
KB: It's definitely going to be songs that you know, but done in a very acoustic way. I wanted completely different arrangements from the originals. The selection process has been hard; there are some songs I always wanted to do, but we're about to go into the studio and I'm still on the fence about a bunch of others.

TM: You asked your fans, via an online contest, to make suggestions -- and you said you'd record one of them. How did that go?
KB: We got hundreds of suggestions. I knew a lot of the songs people suggested already -- some were on my list -- so we may put more than one on. But there were some songs I didn't think of, and people were very smart about it. Like in one interview, I said I love Liz Phair, so someone sent me songs of hers I didn't know.

TM: How are you juggling a CD, a TV show, and Xanadu, not to mention being a mother!
KB: It is very hard to do all this with motherhood. So we're not going to record the whole CD at once, just a few hours at a time when I can. But I try to do nothing before noon, so I have the whole morning to play with my daughter. Sometimes it doesn't work out.

Kerry Butler and Cheyenne Jackson
in Xanadu
(© Paul Kolnik)
TM: Is she aware yet that Mommy is a Broadway star? Does she want to be one too?
KB: She does know Mommy performs on stage. Right now, I am introducing her to Annie, so I let her watch Andrea McArdle on Youtube, and now she's telling me: "I want to sing on stage like those kids. I want mommy to take me on stage in Xanadu." That is not happening! At home, she does my vocal warm-ups with me. And I do take her with me to sound checks; and she is as good as can be while I'm singing -- if I'm holding her. But if she goes to see me at an event, then she screams and wants me to hold her.

TM: Let's talk a little about Xanadu. Are you happy with the CD that recently came out? And are you surprised the show is still running?
KB: I am happy with the CD, because they got the humor on it. We had to kind of fight for that. Originally, they wanted us to be more straight, and maybe not have some of the dialogue. As for the show, before we opened, I wasn't sure what kind of run we'd have. The good reviews were a big surprise; we were screaming when we read them. Our fear was that with jukebox musicals, some people will get it, and some won't. I think now, at least, 75 percent of the people who see the show get it -- even if not everyone gets how smart Douglas Carter Beane's book really is. And now that people in the cast aren't getting hurt every day, it's a lot more fun to be there.

TM: I know the plan is to keep the show open through Tony Awards time, which means you might get your first nomination. How do you feel about the whole awards process?
KB: It's fun and it's nerve-racking. Of course, I've always wanted to win a Tony; I think every person in musical theater dreams of being up there or being nominated. But I'm at a place in my life where I've had a daughter, so I'm not consumed by it all the way I might have been once. At the end of the day, I want to give a great performance in a great show, and if that leads to a nomination, that's great. While I was working on the TV show, I realized I am truly meant to do theater. Those actors live there on TV, and I live in theater.

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