BWW Review: THE LAST FIVE YEARS Alums Norbert Leo Butz and Sherie Rene Scott Reunite at Feinstein's/54 Below
It was 2002 when Norbert Leo Butz and Sherie Rene Scott premiered Jason Robert Brown's THE LAST FIVE YEARS Off-Broadway. They had worked together before that, however, in 1997 in the Broadway cast of RENT. If their joint concert at Feinstein's/54 Below on April 26-May 2 is to be believed, theirs has been a tumultuous relationship.
The two started their concert with a mock argument done for comic effect, while singing the English Beat tune "Save It For Later." It was a surprising opening song choice for a Broadway duo. The funniest lyrics in this song were "Just hold my hand while I come...to a decision on it," as the two talked about their reticence about working together again.
What followed were 10 more songs, as each of them narrated their relationship over the years. It was hard to tell what was true and what was exaggerated for entertainment value. Some of the stories they told seemed way too over the top to be real, but it did sound like there were some romantic feelings between them at some point, followed by a falling out for several years after they shared the stage in Broadway's DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS in 2005-2006. Regardless of what was real and what was not, these two consummate performers played their "roles" to the hilt.
They were also in fine voice. I have always admired the forward placement of Scott's sound that allows her to have such a resonant soprano. Butz sounds more Broadway in his upper register before he, then, moves seamlessly into a raspier, rocked-out sound in his lower range. He especially showed off his rock chops in the Violent Femmes' song "Add It Up."
Besides a medley of songs from RENT, Scott and Butz sang three songs from THE LAST FIVE YEARS---how could they not?---and a snippet of "Love Is My Legs" from DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS. Mostly, however, the set list was a fascinating mishmash of Broadway and pop/rock tunes. The Stevie Nicks duet "Leather and Lace" and the Civil Wars' duet "Poison and Wine" reminded us why these two singers were paired in THE LAST FIVE YEARS: their voices blend to perfection.
Of course, the musicians they brought with them were also top notch. Todd Almond served as musical director and accompanied Scott and Butz on piano and guitar. Mike Pettry played guitar and keyboard, Catherine Popper was on bass, and Greg Seligson played drums.
I was particularly surprised by the choice for concert finale, but I loved hearing "Freedom" by George Michael as sung by these two. When the song was done, Scott and Butz left the stage and did not come back for an encore. I guess there's something to be said for leaving the audience wanting more--- and we did.
It was the most unusual cabaret evening I've seen at Feinstein's/54 Below--- not at all your customary set list or your average empathy-inducing autobiographical banter. Scott and Butz seemed to lay bare some of their human foibles and mistakes (again, depending on how much of it was to be believed), poking fun at themselves without ego.