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Kerry Butler is Quite a Catch

The beloved Broadway star talks about originating the role of Brenda in the new musical Catch Me If You Can. logo
Kerry Butler in Catch Me If You Can
(© Chris Bennion)
Kerry Butler has developed into one of musical theater's most beloved leading ladies, with starring roles in Blood Brothers, Beauty and the Beast, Little Shop of Horrors, and most notably, Xanadu, which earned her a Tony Award nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. Right now, she's at Seattle's 5th Avenue Theatre, co-starring in the world premiere of Catch Me If You Can, a musical version of the hit Steven Spielberg film about real life con-artist Frank Abagnale, Jr., in which she plays his girlfriend, Brenda. The show reunites her with much of the creative team of Hairspray (in which she originated the role of Penny Pingleton), including director Jack O'Brien, score writers Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman, and set designer David Rockwell. Butler took time during an early preview of the show to chat with TheaterMania about this exciting project -- one that could bring her back to Broadway very soon.

THEATERMANIA: How did you get the role of Brenda?
KERRY BUTLER: Even though I had worked with everyone on Hairspray, I had to audition for the reading.

TM: Did you know the movie before being cast; and either way, have you watched it since getting the part?
KB: I saw the movie while I was doing Hairspray and when Steven Spielberg came to the show, I was able to tell him how much I loved the film. But I haven't watched the movie again, and I won't until I know exactly what I'm doing. Right now, I'm still experimenting, and I don't like to be influenced by other people's performances during that process.

TM: How has Brenda evolved during the rehearsal and preview process?
KB: They are definitely trying to give Brenda more of a backbone. We are just getting started, so I'm excited to see what else we can all do with her.

TM: How is the show different from the other musicals you've done?
KB: It's very real; it's not campy or broad comedy. It's a grown-up musical with a lot of heart -- and that was what really appealed to me. Plus, I haven't ever been able to originate a role with a song like "Fly Fly Away."

TM: What have the early previews been like?
KB: The early audience reaction has been amazing! They cheer after almost every number, and jump to their feet at the end. And we're changing it every day based on their reactions, so it's going to get even better!

TM: What has been like working with Norbert Lee Butz (who plays FBI agent Hanratty) and Aaron Tveit (who plays Frank)?
KB: Aaron and Norbert are amazing; they have unbelievable chemistry. We are so lucky to have them. My scenes are all with Aaron, and he is so emotionally available onstage. And, of course, I love Aaron's voice! He sings this song called "Seventh Wonder" to me, and I'm sure all the girls -- and some boys --are very jealous of me. He has a big career ahead of him.

TM: Your mom is being played by Linda Hart, who was your co-star in Hairspray (as the original Velma). Are you two enjoying the reunion?
KB: It has been so great working with Linda again! We have developed a great friendship. She is hilarious onstage and offstage! She and Nick Wyman both add so much life and fun into the show.

TM: I hear you get some pretty great clothes to wear onstage.
KB: Yes, we have Bob Mackie doing the costumes! How cool is that? My costumes are beautiful. And since I love vintage dresses, I would definitely wear them offstage now.

TM: After you get back, you're doing a two-night gig at Feinstein's at the Loews Regency in November. What can we expect from that?
KB: I'll be doing some songs from my CD, Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust, but I want to keep it a surprise. You'll just have to come and see!

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