Kerry Marie Butler (born June 18, 1971) is an American actress known primarily for her work in theatre.
In February 2002 Butler was cast as Penny Pingleton (a role she had originated in workshops) in Hairspray, the musical version of the John Waters 1988 film of the same name. After an out-of-town tryout in Seattle, Hairspray opened on Broadway on August 2002 and "became an immediate Broadway smash." Even in a star-studded ensemble cast, reviewers singled Butler out for her sparkling performance as the spastic sidekick. The show won eight Tony Awards including Best Musical. For her performance, Butler was nominated for the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards, and received the Clarence Derwent Award.
While Hairspray went into pre-production, Butler played the free-spirited performance artist Maddie in the limited run of the intimate Australian musical Prodigal at the York Theatre. In March 2002 Butler also appeared on the TV show Sesame Street as Ms. Camp, a letter carrier. During her run in Hairspray Butler filmed a TV pilot for Fox entitled Twins, but it was not picked up for the season.
After starring in Hairspray for a year Butler left the cast in July 2003 and was succeeded by Jenn Gambatese.
Little Shop Of Horrors and beyond
Following the end of her Hairspray contract, Butler was cast in the role of Audrey in the second, more successful, Broadway production of the musical, Little Shop of Horrors. Butler revisited her long-lost childhood Brooklyn accent to play Audrey, the love interest with a sadistic dentist boyfriend and a heart of gold. A fan of Little Shop composer Alan Menken, who also wrote the music for Beauty and the Beast, Butler received an Outer Critics Circle nomination for Little Shop.
After leaving the show in the summer of 2004, Butler traveled to San Francisco where she created the role of scheming, foul-mouthed teenager Dedee Truitt in the new musical The Opposite of Sex, which had its world premiere at the Magic Theatre that fall. The musical is based on Don Roos' 1998 film starring Christina Ricci and Lisa Kudrow.
In the fall of 2005, Butler appeared in the original Off-Broadway musical Miracle Brothers at the Vineyard Theatre. She played the role of Isabel, a mother made miserable by the rebelliousness of her son as well as her unhappy marriage. In the summer of 2006 she reprised her role of Dedee in The Opposite of Sex at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, and followed that by taking on the role of Kate, the Ayn Rand-loving runaway bride, in the New York Musical Theatre Festival production of Party Come Here.
Butler also portrayed the manipulative heiress and recovering alcoholic Claudia Reston on the ABC soap opera One Life to Live, from January 2006 until January 2007, when her character was written off the show.
Butler continues to perform in various workshops, readings and benefit concerts. She is a vegetarian and activist whose concerns include youth mentoring, human rights violations, genocide and environmental issues.
Butler is married to childhood friend Muppet writer and puppeteer Joey Mazzarino, and they have two daughters, whom they adopted from Ethiopia. The older daughter, Segi, is the inspiration for the Sesame Street song I Love My Hair.
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