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Danny Burstein

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Danny Burstein
Danny Burstein and Rebecca Luker.jpg
Burstein (left) and wife Rebecca Luker at a gala, December 2008
Born (1964-06-16) June 16, 1964 (age 54)
EducationCity University of New York, Queens (BA)
University of California, San Diego (MFA)
OccupationActor, voice actor, stage actor, screen actor
Years active1992–present
Spouse(s)Rebecca Luker (2000–present)

Danny Burstein (born June 16, 1964) is an American actor of stage and screen, who made his Broadway debut in 1992. He is a six-time Tony Award nominee; for The Drowsy Chaperone (2006), South Pacific (2008), Follies (2012), Golden Boy (2013), Cabaret (2014), and Fiddler on the Roof (2016). He has also won two Drama Desk Awards, three Outer Critics Circle Awards, and received two Grammy Award nominations. His other Broadway credits include The Seagull (1992), Saint Joan (1993), and Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (2010).

Burstein's television work includes a feature-length episode of the BBC sitcom Absolutely Fabulous (2002); a Staten Island father in the first season of Louie (2010); he appeared as different characters in six episodes of the original NBC drama series Law & Order (1995–2015), and played the recurring part of Lolly Steinman on the HBO series Boardwalk Empire (2010–11). His film appearances include Transamerica (2005), Deception (2008), The Family Fang (2015), and Indignation (2016).

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Theater Talk: Fiddler, Now and Then
  • ✪ Show Clip - The Royal Family - Jan Maxwell
  • ✪ GOLDEN BOY trailer (long version)
  • ✪ Patty & Emily & Aldolpho
  • ✪ Featured Performers (Working In The Theatre #361)


>> HASKINS: Coming up on "Theater Talk"... >> RIEDEL: Now, were they typical composer lyricists -- they steal your best book scenes and turn them into a showstopping number? >> STEIN: Well, I wouldn't use the word "steal," they borrowed. [ Laughter ] >> ANNOUNCER: "Theater Talk" is made possible in part by... >> TEVYE: ♪ If I were a rich man ♪ ♪ Ya ha deedle, ya ha deedle, ya ha deedle deedle dum ♪ ♪ All day long I'd biddy biddy bum if I were a wealthy man ♪ >> HASKINS: From New York City, this is "Theater Talk." I'm Susan Haskins, and I am joined by my substitute cohost Jesse Green, drama critic of New York Magazine, and the writer of the recent cover story on Audra McDonald in the big, new theater season issue of New York Magazine, which also has "28 Reasons to Love New York." And one of them is here right now, and if you would introduce him and them, that would be great. >> GREEN: Here we have with us today from "Fiddler on the Roof," which is a beautiful revival of a classic show, of course, Director Bart Sher. >> SHER: Hello. How are you? >> GREEN: And star of the show playing Tevye is Danny Burstein. >> BURSTEIN: Great to be here. >> GREEN: Welcome. >> BURSTEIN: Thanks. >> GREEN: Let's begin by talking about the difficulty of putting on a show that everybody knows, if it's even true that everybody knows it. Let me ask you, Danny, how -- Can I assume that as a working actor for many years, this is a show that you had seen innumerable times and do very well? >> BURSTEIN: I've done it twice. >> GREEN: And you've done it twice. >> BURSTEIN: In community theater when I was 16, and when I was 21, I did it in summer stock with Theodore Bikel. >> GREEN: And, Bart, obviously, it must've been something -- >> SHER: No, I'd seen it on tour in San Francisco in what I'm pretty certain was the Robbins' version in like 1979 or so, '79, '80. And then I saw the most recent revival in 2004. And then I've seen the Zero Mostel version in the library. >> HASKINS: So, what inspired you to go, "Well, I'm just going to dump that Robbins' version and do my own with Danny Burstein"? >> SHER: Uh, well, there were a couple of things. The first part was -- The first part was Danny. The thing is, I would never have, ever even begun to think about how to do it without a good Tevye. And because we'd worked together, you know, before, a couple of times, I knew that was a great start. The other was that I had worked with this particular choreographer, Hofesh Shechter, on a new opera called "Two Boys" that Nico Muhly wrote. And as I was working on it, I was like, "This guy might be really good for 'Fiddler.'" And went to the Robbins Foundation, who said, "Sure." I was surprised, but they were up for a new version. Those two things made it feel like we could push us into some new territory. >> GREEN: When you are looking at a piece of work that was hailed from the beginning and has stood the test of time already, are you saying to yourself, "What can I do to make a new mark on it?", or are you saying to yourself, "How can I make people today look at it freshly?" What's your first way in? >> SHER: Um, I don't say, "Oh, what's my new mark on it?" I don't do it that way. I begin an exploration. And begin like looking at the Sholem Aleichem and looking at stuff from the period and looking from the past. I happen to be drawn to "Fiddler" personally, because my father was born in a shtetl in Lithuania. But even though I was raised Catholic, I -- it had always been this sort of story that was in the back on my experience. My grandfather coming over through Latvia, and they were in Lithuania and this whole thing, and I knew enough about that experience that I wanted to explore it personally. But I found myself -- I think what happens is, is that the new approach to it emerges through the work. So, it became very clear that in looking at it carefully, that I was very drawn to 1905, as opposed to 1965. And the more I got further into the Sholem Aleichem and the stuff, the more other things came out of it. I think I became more interested in the sort of style of the piece from a point of view of the comedy from the '60s versus the naturalism. I was quite drawn to the book. I found the book quite rewarding and quite intelligent. >> GREEN: You mean the book of the musical? >> SHER: The book of the musical, yeah. Joe Stein's book was quite -- There was a lot in there. And so, I usually begin the thing with a point of view that's based on exploration of the text as itself, and then out of that usually emerges -- I do have a point of view that means I have to figure out what the immediate significance of the piece right now in 2015, 2016, and that's something I'm always looking for. I don't have an answer to it, but I'm always looking for it. >> BURSTEIN: Right, that's one of the -- one of the great things I love about working with you, actually. He always is looking for a way in. >> GREEN: But, Danny, as an actor, particularly in the kind of pivotal role in the piece, do you have to have the same way in? I mean, do you have to sort of to buy into the director's overall view, or are you working on your own narrative and your own way to find -- >> BURSTEIN: Well, of course, I have a different job, of course, and I do my own exploration. I'd known about this piece, or that we might be doing the piece for about two and a half years, definitely a year before we started rehearsal. And so I read every Sholem Aleichem story. I did tons of research. Also went to the New York City Lincoln Center Library and also saw the Jerome Robbins video, which was fascinating, with Zero Mostel. It was the '70... >> SHER: '77, yeah. >> BURSTEIN: ...revival at the Winter Garden. >> GREEN: What were you reacting, I don't want to say against, but in terms of not wanting to base your thinking about this show on the period in which it first showed up in New York, but rather its original -- >> SHER: I think the misunderstanding is, like, that there's -- Philosophically, there's not some point of view I'm bringing to it, there's an approach I bring to what I do when I make the work. So, like, I set in motion a way of analyzing and a way of exploring it, which in my case usually means deeper attention to the naturals from the text. I might be less interested in the -- the "jokes" as they might be there. I might be looking more at some historical context that might inform it differently. So, if you take something like "Matchmaker," which people seem to feel I've done completely differently, the truth is if I'm exploring it, I didn't know how else to do it, 'cause I'm asking what are the stakes in the song for these girls, and what are they facing? So, I head into it that way, because otherwise I feel like the plot doesn't make any sense. >> GREEN: Well, I think we should say at this point that "Matchmaker" is a song that, let's say, traditionally, is a comedy charm number. >> SHER: Yes. >> GREEN: Near the beginning of the show in which we, you know, get amusing reflections on -- >> SHER: And they throw brooms around and it's a very joyful song and that was -- and that was how Robbins entered it. I didn't try to think about how he entered it. I just really looked at the text and looked at the situation the girls were in and found, you know, Tzeitel has a huge problem on her hands and tried to set it in motion. >> ♪ Playing with matches, a girl can get burned ♪ >> BURSTEIN: Sheldon, the first time he saw the staging, said, "I didn't realize I'd written the word 'terrified' in that song." >> GREEN: We're talking about Sheldon Harnick, the lyricist, who's 90 and quite -- >> SHER: Yeah, he was very supportive and wonderful in the show. But the thing was that he said, "Oh, I've never seen it like that," and it threw me, because I was like, "Well, how else would you do it?" I mean, maybe it's from doing too much Shakespeare, but the whole problem of fathers forcing their kids to get married is pretty much 2,000 to 3,000 years old in terms of drama. And so, I was following up on what I knew from Terrence to Shakespeare to Moliere to whatever, and it's very helpful to kind of see that Tevye stands in the same sort of line of like, I have -- I don't want to marry that boy. >> HASKINS: Danny, I'm interested that you said you watched the Zero Mostel 1977 take. >> TEVYE: ♪ If I were a rich man ♪ ♪ Yibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dum ♪ >> TEVYE: ♪ All day long I'd biddy biddy bum if I were a wealthy man ♪ >> HASKINS: Your interpretation is so different. You're in no way imitating Mostel. >> BURSTEIN: No, I didn't want to imitate anybody. >> HASKINS: But it was interesting that you could watch it, and then cast that off. 'Cause we have seen so many Mostel imitators. >> BURSTEIN: Sure. Sure. For me, it's all information that I try and glean something from, and then I basically forget about it. And try on the first day of rehearsal to make it as honest and real as possible. One of the -- One of the weird and wacky things about working with Bart is, for about the first two weeks, you throw the comedy out the window and you just deal with the realities -- >> GREEN: Is that terrifying, though? >> BURSTEIN: It is, because you find safety in comedy. >> GREEN: Yeah, of course. >> BURSTEIN: And comedy is something that really needs to be honed. It's a ballet, and you really have to work on it and set it and find it. And so, not working on it and just finding the reality of that particular situation, what is in the text, is a bit off. >> SHER: Yeah. >> BURSTEIN: It's unsettling. >> SHER: And I'm just going for the truthfulness of the situations only, and then from there, we build up and then start setting where the comedy's going to come. >> HASKINS: Did you do that when you did "South Pacific," and Danny played Luther Billis? >> ♪ There is nothing like a dame ♪ >> HASKINS: Did you do it without the comedy, at some point? >> BURSTEIN: We did. Oh, in the very beginning, sure. >> SHER: You always do it from the point of view of the stakes in the scene, and then you're building up. Danny's very good at being funny [Laughs] so that's going to happen anyway, and then you build up from there. And the other thing about the '77 version, I wanted to see how -- technically how Robbins was operating the piece. You know, how you get from scene to scene, what Aronson was doing, what those front cloth drops were like, how the movement and texture of the piece is moving, so that as I'm developing a design, you don't -- You want to keep the momentum of the piece operating. 'Cause I tend to think that a lot of these shows are spacial as much as anything else. So, Shakespeare's stage was a spacial -- He was writing for a space that could go from above to below and switch very quickly. And in these cases of these musicals, often what the original design was informs you something about how they were writing, or why they went suddenly to a front cloth number and went back from there to something else, and -- and I was just wanting to see how the machine of the piece operated. >> HASKINS: But I felt in places like, for instance, the dream that you were going, "Well, I'm not doing that. I'm going to do something else." You didn't do that? >> SHER: No, I -- All I do is -- And I did the dream like 1,000 times, he can tell you -- I really don't operate like that. I just take it from what the object of the text is in front of me and explore. >> GREEN: But, Bart, let's talk about the famous thing that everyone talks about. You know, and I get that you go into a show as an exploration, but a philosophy arises from that, but, you know, even if you didn't start that way, otherwise you're not really offering anything. So, one of the things you offer in this production, we begin untraditionally with Danny's character, Tevye, in a -- the famous red L.L. Bean -- everyone says, I don't know if it is or not -- parka, with a train station sign in Cyrillic saying, "Anatevka." >> SHER: Correct. >> GREEN: And a guidebook, or what appears to be a guidebook. It's not specified, and it's only a few seconds. >> SHER: Well, the -- So, I'm kind of going out of order. So, if I do all the exploration of the text and I'm looking at it before I start rehearsal, I do develop some ideas about it. One of the interesting things came was, we worked with a Rabbi Larry Hoffman, who worked with us. We talked a lot about the generations of identity. So much of our politics and sense of ourselves now are based on -- some people call identity politics. The question of identity, of who I am in relationship to this world, 50 years since it was done, was a central question I was asking myself. So, the train station, the man today, exploring his identity or going back and sort of became layered. And I start with an idea and then see where the idea's going, some ways with Danny's help, because Danny would say, "This doesn't make sense. Let's try this." And then the end was, it felt very important to me, and also we were hugely influenced by the -- the Syrian refugee crisis. We had the worst refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. Where do people go, and what are the circumstances under which they're driven out of their -- of their own homes and have to go somewhere else? And that idea of joining the line, stepping from now or whatever into the past and putting yourself in the circumstances of your ancestors, your peo-- And that was a very important question for me to ask now. And I hear kids in the audience, I have children who -- You can hear them literally asking questions like, "You know, Dad, what is a pogrom?" You know, "What is this?" They know much less than, say, a generation did in '65. They're not as close to World War II. They're not as close to their own parents coming out. And I wanted a frame for them to enter the piece. And so that is -- I'm not -- I'm sort of saying both things at the same time. It's partly an exploration, and the exploration develops a point of view, and that was a serious and important point of view for me. And not everybody agrees with it, and I'm fine with that, and some people really don't like it, but I'm glad that they ask the question of what it means to them. >> GREEN: I think it's enough justification for me personally that it's moving, but it also does what you say. I mean, you -- it forces you -- If you are already familiar with the story, it forces you to expand what the story of refugeeism means. And if you're not familiar, it makes you think about just how momentous this sort of change has been in history. But one of the things I -- Why do you think people resist? And also, I wonder, do you ever feel the resistance? >> BURSTEIN: Definitely at the top of the show, I would say. >> GREEN: What do you sense? How does it come to you? >> BURSTEIN: I sense confusion. I sense people asking questions. >> GREEN: Can you hear, like [Mumbling] >> BURSTEIN: Sure, at the very top of the show, no doubt about it. Because this is not -- It's not your grandfather's "Fiddler." >> GREEN: Right. >> BURSTEIN: And they know it, and they're expecting that, and it throws them. >> SHER: And it's important that they be placed -- they be placed a little out of their comfort zone at the beginning. It forces them to maybe... It forces them to stand back and evaluate a very quick question of like, "What do I expect 'Fiddler' to be? What do I expect a piece of theater that I knew well to be?" You know, and the laws of interpretation or hermeneutics or however we want to go into it are complex, but that -- you have very few times within the evening of, let's say, a two-hour show where you can really push an audience into a place where they are, like, thrown off and still -- and still slightly positive, and one of them is at the beginning. You know, where they're fresh to the piece, and they've just sat down and they're like, "Wait a minute." The great part is that they do have a wonderful history with "Fiddler." Like, I couldn't do it -- I couldn't ask these questions if there wasn't a rich response -- >> GREEN: But it wouldn't have been disruptive of anything if they didn't have something -- >> SHER: I love how much people are devoted to the show. That makes a huge difference when you feel people are responding and actively connecting to it. >> GREEN: Were you surprised or concerned about whether the book as it is written -- It's a very tight book. It's like those scenes are engineered within an inch of their lives. Were you concerned whether it would, you know, have enough air in it to admit these other ways of thinking about it? >> SHER: It's very, very tight. It's such a high level of skill, and the creators, those guys were... >> BURSTEIN: Geniuses. >> SHER: ...brilliant. And they really honed it. I think where I found myself enjoying the text the most was when I got sort of to the last scenes, the goodbye scenes with Yente and the kids and Chava. Those scenes suddenly get a little bit longer, and you suddenly have a little bit more richness, and so you place them where you could tell they were really struggling with how to say goodbye, with what this whole thing meant. And then when you're placed -- Those scenes surprised me when I got there, you know, how smart they are and just enough. I think if they were longer, it would be trickier. But they're very emotional and powerful scenes, and the goodbyes are very profound. And they -- It's a little bit like, I don't know, some Kabuki exercise, where the goodbye of Lazar Wolf has to be exactly right. You have this set of lines, and this, like, where you go in Chicago, blah, and you can feel the sort of ancient, like, thousands of Lazar Wolfs who've struggled over exactly how to get that paragraph right. And that's kind of fun. >> HASKINS: That ending is so gripping, Danny, and it must be just such an emotional workout for you every night. >> BURSTEIN: It is. >> HASKINS: Yeah. >> BURSTEIN: It's exhausting. It's the most physically and emotionally exhausting show I've ever done. It takes a lot of stamina. [ Laughs ] It does. >> HASKINS: And then when you're done, is it hard to shake it off, or...? >> BURSTEIN: It is. >> HASKINS: Yeah. >> BURSTEIN: It is. >> GREEN: Look, he's still got the beard. >> BURSTEIN: I've still got the beard. It's not even mine. It is. It's exhausting. Actually, I was warned about that by Alfred Molina. >> HASKINS: Oh, interesting. >> BURSTEIN: And he said he would go home and he couldn't sleep. Yeah, you have to find a way to go, "Okay, I'm walking out of --" >> GREEN: People think it's a jolly kind of business going on, but when -- Why would they think that when you look at what happens to these people in this show? >> BURSTEIN: Yeah. And yet it's beautiful and uplifting, and there are new things that Hofesh did in the choreography in the circle that, you know, movements that are proud, so they go off in a positive way. >> SHER: Yeah. >> GREEN: Are they fun to do? Is it fun to do those movements? >> BURSTEIN: It is. >> GREEN: Yeah. >> BURSTEIN: He's a genius. I love him. >> SHER: He's really brilliant. >> BURSTEIN: Really, you know, he looks like the kind of guy who'd, you know, change the oil in your car, and yet he's this genius choreographer. >> SHER: He's a real choreographer in the sense he has his own very specific sense of movement. And so, he has to train those dancers to move his way. >> HASKINS: Yeah. >> SHER: And they were trained and trained. We did two-week workshop so that all of those gestures of prayer or -- They're very specific to -- Like in ballet, the body's -- you know, the center's higher. His is lower where it is in their legs. They had to really train to learn his way. We all sort of worked with him. And then he would do very simple things that were, you know, extremely profound and beautiful. And that was -- It comes from a different place, you know. Very few people -- You know, he was in the Israeli Army for two years at a desk in Tel Aviv dancing all the time. But, you know, he knew how to teach the Cossacks how to hold their guns. >> HASKINS: A not-to-be-missed experience, "Fiddler on the Roof" at the Broadway Theatre. I want to thank you, Jesse, drama critic of New York magazine. Read his cover story about Audra McDonald and the "28 things to love in New York Theater" right now online. Before we end the show, we're going to look back at an interview we did with the original creators of "Fiddler on the Roof," Sheldon Harnick and the late Joseph Stein and Jerry Bock, and just have a few moments of them talking about what it was to create the show and how open they are to new interpretations. Good night, Danny. Thank you so much. >> BURSTEIN: Thank you. >> HASKINS: Tevye the Milkman. Wonderful. And Bartlett Sher, the director of "Fiddler on the Roof." >> SHER: Thank you. >> TEVYE: ♪ Lord, who made the lion and the lamb ♪ ♪ You decreed I should be what I am ♪ ♪ Would it spoil some vast, eternal plan ♪ ♪ If I were a wealthy man ♪ [ Cheers and applause ] >> RIEDEL: I am very happy tonight to be joined by the men who gave us one of the great musicals of all time. Jerry Bock, who wrote the score to "Fiddler on the Roof." >> BOCK: Michael. >> RIEDEL: Sheldon Harnick, the lyrics. And Joe Stein, the book. Gentlemen, welcome to "Theater Talk." >> STEIN: Thank you. >> RIEDEL: Take us back to when you were writing "Fiddler on the Roof." Whose idea was it? How did you guys all get together, and how did it come about, really? >> HARNICK: Well, somebody sent me a novel called "Wandering Stars" by Sholem Aleichem. I read it and I loved it. I gave it to Jerry, who loved it. We gave it to Joe, and Joe said, "It's too big. It's just too sprawling. It covers decades. It would have a massive cast. But since we love the writing, let's look at some more work by Sholem Aleichem." >> STEIN: That's substantially true, and I remember the stories of Tevye that I had heard as a child. And after some digging, we finally found -- The material was out of print at the time. But we subsequently located a copy of the -- of the book. It was called "The Old Country." And there were the stories of -- They're all monologues by Tevye speaking to the author. And we picked three brief monologues as the basis for the story that is now "Fiddler on the Roof." >> RIEDEL: And musically, Jerry, what was the style that you -- >> BOCK: There was not one song in the original Sholem Aleichem stories. [ Laughter ] >> RIEDEL: Your contribution -- >> BOCK: Okay? >> RIEDEL: Did you hear the sound of the music, so to speak, as soon as you were reading -- >> BOCK: You know, it's hard to explain, but I guess I grew up all my life favoring the minor key, in terms of classical music, in terms of folk music, in terms of even little songs my grandmother used to sing me. But I never had the opportunity to express that musically in any of the shows we did. And when this opportunity arrived, it was like a fountain that was -- that was starting to run. >> RIEDEL: What was the first song you guys put together for "Fiddler"? >> HARNICK: Well, when we read the material, our thinking was, "Whatever Joe does, let's look at these stories and see which scenes have to stay in the show," and one of them we thought that has got to be there no matter what we do is Tevye's dream. So, we thought, let's do that first. And Jerry had given me a tape with a lot of music on it, and there was one piece of music that just sounded absolutely right for the dream. So, we started with that. >> RIEDEL: Now, were they typical composer lyricists -- They steal your best book scenes and turn them into a showstopping number? >> STEIN: Well, I wouldn't use the word "steal." They borrowed. [ Laughter ] >> BOCK: It's very important to us to take advantage of our wonderful book writer, because we need to get as close to the book as possible and go from scene to song, scene to song in a kind of, hopefully, seamless way. >> RIEDEL: And are there scenes you wrote that then became songs in the show? >> STEIN: Inevitably, that always happens, or parts of scenes or parts of dialogue. But that's -- The word for that is "collaboration." >> RIEDEL: Give us a sense now when you were doing the original production, you had two titanic personalities, Jerry Robbins and Zero Mostel. I mean, were you guys sort of basically doing what you were told from these guys? Could you stand up to them? >> STEIN: For one thing, they were gigantic personalities, but they liked the material. It was -- There was -- There was very little problem about -- about the material. I mean, there were the usual discussions and stuff. But there was no hostility and there was no struggle about what kind of show we're going to do. We all saw the same show from the very beginning. And the original -- the original score and the original script changed a lot, but the basic line remained the same from beginning to end. >> WOMAN: Did you have any idea what a massive hit this would be? >> STEIN: No. >> BOCK: No. >> WOMAN: It just overtook you opening night? >> HARNICK: We loved the stories. We thought they were very beautiful, and we thought, if we do our job right and if we realized the beauty and the humor that's -- and the humanity that's in those stories, maybe with luck, we'll run a year or two. >> BALDWIN: ♪ To life ♪ >> HARNICK: ♪ To life ♪ >> BALDWIN: ♪ L'chaim ♪ >> HARNICK: ♪ L'chaim ♪ >> BALDWIN: ♪ L'chaim ♪ >> HARNICK: ♪ To life ♪ >> BALDWIN ♪ Life has a way of confusing us ♪ ♪ Blessing and bruising us ♪ >> BOTH: ♪ Drink, l'chaim ♪ >> BALDWIN: ♪ To life ♪ >> HARNICK: ♪ To life ♪ >> BALDWIN: ♪ L'chaim ♪ >> HARNICK: ♪ L'chaim ♪ >> BALDWIN: ♪ L'chaim ♪ >> HARNICK: ♪ To life ♪ ♪ If you've been lucky, then Monday was no worse than Sunday was ♪ >> BOTH: ♪ Drink l'chaim, to life ♪ >> BALDWIN: ♪ God would like us to be joyful ♪ ♪ Even when our hearts lie panting on the floor ♪ >> HARNICK: ♪ How much more can we be joyful ♪ ♪ When there's really something to be joyful for ♪ >> BOTH: ♪ To life, to life, l'chaim ♪ ♪ L'chaim, l'chaim, to life ♪ >> HARNICK: ♪ A gift we seldom are wise enough ♪ >> BALDWIN: ♪ Ever to prize enough ♪ >> HARNICK: ♪ Drink l'chaim ♪ >> BALDWIN: ♪ L'chaim ♪ >> BOTH: ♪ To life ♪ >> ANNOUNCER: Our thanks to the friends of "Theater Talk" for their significant contribution to this production. "Theater Talk" is made possible in part by... We welcome your questions or comments for "Theater Talk." Thank you.


Early life and education

Burstein was born in Mt. Kisco, New York, and was raised in New York City.[1] Danny's biological parents separated when he was two months old. He was raised by his mother, Virginia (Vega), a painter, and his stepfather, Harvey Burstein, a professor of Greek philosophy.[2][3] His mother, who is from Costa Rica, is Catholic and of Spanish descent, and his stepfather is Jewish.[4][5][6] Burstein attended the High School of the Performing Arts and Queens College in New York City. He received an MFA in Acting from the University of California, San Diego in 1990. Burstein's first acting job was in the chorus of The Music Man at The Muny in St. Louis during college.[7]


On Broadway, Burstein's seventeen appearances, which have garnered him six Tony Award nominations, have included A Little Hotel on the Side (1992), Yakov in The Seagull (1992–93), in Saint Joan and Three Men on a Horse (both in 1993), Paul in Company (1995), 1st Officer William Murdoch in Titanic (1997–99), Aldolpho in The Drowsy Chaperone (2006–07),[8] Luther Billis in South Pacific (2008–10),[9] Taxi Driver in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (2010–11), Tokio in Golden Boy (2012–2013),[10] Max in the Sharr White play, The Snow Geese (2013),[11] Herr Schultz in the 2014 revival of Cabaret (2014–15) and Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof (2015–2016).

Burstein's Off-Broadway credits include Rajiv Joseph's Describe the Night at the Atlantic Theater Company; Talley's Folly opposite Sarah Paulson at The Roundabout Theater Company for which he was nominated for a Lucille Lortel Award and a Drama League Award; the world premieres of A. R. Gurney's Mrs. Farnsworth (2004), opposite Sigourney Weaver and John Lithgow, at The Flea Theater[12] and Psych (2001) at Playwrights Horizons.[13] He also starred in I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change (1996 and 2002) at the Westside Theatre;[14] as Ru/Floor Monitor/Pianist in Merrily We Roll Along (1994) at the York Theatre at St. Peter's Church;[15] All in the Timing at the Houseman; as Daniel in Alan Menken and David Spencer's Weird Romance at the WPA; as Solomon in The Rothschilds and Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh, both at Circle in the Square; The United Way at Ensemble Studio Theater; and A Class Act at Manhattan Theatre Club. He appeared in four concerts at Carnegie Hall including: the Ira Gershwin centennial, as Steward in Sail Away (1999) and in Candide (operetta) (2018).[16][17] He appeared in the Encores! (New York City Center) staged concert productions of DuBarry Was a Lady (1996), as Romeo Skragg in Li'l Abner (1998), as Tailor-Merchant in The Boys from Syracuse (1997) and as Mister Mister in The Cradle Will Rock (2013).[17][18][19]

He played the role of Buddy Plummer in the Kennedy Center production of Follies, which ran from May 7, 2011 through June 19, 2011 at the Eisenhower Theater, co-starring with Bernadette Peters, Ron Raines, and Jan Maxwell.[20] He reprised that role in the Broadway engagement of Follies at the Marquis Theatre from August 7, 2011 (in previews) through January 22, 2012, and continued with the production in its engagement at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, California from May 3, 2012 through June 9, 2012.[21] He won the Drama Desk Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical[22] and was nominated for the Tony Award, Best Actor in a Musical.[23]

Burstein can be heard on the cast recording of many of these musicals. Among his many recordings is the musical Sweet Little Devil in which he introduced three George Gershwin, Buddy DeSylva songs. The score originally went unrecorded in 1924 and was finally recorded by PS Classics, with Burstein playing the role of Sam in 2012.[24]

Burstein's film roles include Duane Incarnate (2004),[25] Transamerica (2005),[26] Deception (2008), Nor'easter (2013), Trust, Greed, Bullets and Bourbon (2013), American Milkshake (2013), Autumn Whispers (2013), Affluenza (2014), Blackhat (2015), directed by Michael Mann, The Family Fang (2015), opposite Nicole Kidman and directed by Jason Bateman, Construction (2015), Indignation (2016), written and directed by James Schamus, and The Sounding, written & directed by Catherine Eaton. His many television credits include guest starring on Fosse/Verdon (2019), The Blacklist (TV series) (2019), Madam Secretary (2018), NCIS: New Orleans (2018), Instinct (U.S. TV series) (2018), Elementary (2017), all the Law & Order series, the BBC's Absolutely Fabulous (2002), the FX series Louie (2010), and The Good Wife. He was cast in HBO's Boardwalk Empire after director Martin Scorsese saw him in South Pacific, and after auditioning for three different characters, he landed the part of Lolly Steinman.[27]

Burstein has lent his voice in a number of video games, including Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, Manhunt 2, Grand Theft Auto IV, and Neverwinter Nights 2.

He made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Frosch in Die Fledermaus (2013–14 season).

Burstein serves on the Artists Committee of the Kennedy Center Honors and has been a guest lecturer teaching at many universities such as Yale, NYU, Juilliard, UCSD and Queens College.

Burstein played the role of Tevye in the 2015 Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof, at the Broadway Theatre, directed by Bartlett Sher. The revival began in previews on November 20, 2015 and officially opened on December 20, 2015 and closed on December 31st, 2016.[28][29][30]

In the summer of 2017, he played the role of Nick Bottom in the New York Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

He appears as Alfred P. Doolittle in the Broadway revival of My Fair Lady at Lincoln Center Theater from January 8, 2019.[31] In June 2019 he will appear on Broadway in Moulin Rouge! as Harold Zidler. Moulin Rouge! played its pre-Broadway performances at the Emerson Colonial Theatre in Boston from July 10, 2018 to August 19, 2018.[32][33]

Personal life

Burstein is married to actress Rebecca Luker[34] and has two sons, Alexander and Zachary.[35][36]



Year Title Role Notes
1991 Giant Robo: The Animation Professor Franken Von Vogler (voice) English version
1997 Jungle Emperor Leo Minus (voice) English version
2003 SW 2.5 (The Pitch Wars) George Lucas / Rob Reiner / Kevin Smith Short film
2004 Duane Incarnate George
2005 Transamerica Dr. Spikowsky
2006 Spectropia Ball Guest
2008 Deception Clute Controller
2012 Nor'easter Paul Moore
2013 American Milkshake Coach
2013 Autumn Whispers Gordon Murkle Short film
2013 Trust, Greed, Bullets & Bourbon Hector
2014 Russian Broadway Shut Down Luther Billis Short film
2014 Affluenza Ira Miller
2015 Blackhat Associate Warden Jeffries
2015 The Family Fang Eric Wilcox
2015 Construction Jay
2015 Bad Dads Unknown role Short film
2016 Indignation Max Messner
2017 The Sounding Anderson
2018 Lucy in the Sky Dan Short film


Year Title Role Notes
1995 Law & Order Joe Garvey Episode: "Cruel and Unusual"
1998 Law & Order Howe Episode: "Burden"
1999 Third Watch Medic #2 Episode: "Welcome to Camelot"
2000 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Mr. Brookfield Episode: "Honor"
2001 Santa, Baby! Unknown role (voice) Television movie
2001 Law & Order Assistant District Attorney Lester Rosenfeld Episode: "Teenage Wasteland"
2002 Ed Johnny Luggozzo Episode: "Human Nature"
2002 Absolutely Fabulous Martin Episode: "Gay"
2002 Law & Order Peter Episode: "Oxymoron"
2004 Shura no Toki: Age of Chaos Takuan Osho (voice) Episode: "A Fighter Without Peer"
English version
2004 Phoenix Sarutahiko / Dr. Saruta / Azaumi-no-muraji Saruta (voice) Series regular (13 episodes)
English version
2004 Hope & Faith Moderator Episode: "Just-In Time"
2004 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Luke Vinton Episode: "Shrink-Wrapped"
2006 Conviction Unknown role Episode: "Savasana"
2007 Law & Order: Criminal Intent Leo Bernardi Episode: "Seeds"
2009 Law & Order Surrogate Murray Episode: "Lucky Stiff"
2010 Law & Order Judge Sam Murray Episode: "Blackmail"
2010 Louie Mike Episode: "Bully"
2010 Live from Lincoln Center Luther Billis Episode: "South Pacific"
2010–2011 Boardwalk Empire Lolly Steinman Recurring role (5 episodes)
2011 Submissions Only Jerry Labove Episode: "Mean Like Me"
2015 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Eric Parker Episode: "Transgender Bridge"
2015 The Good Wife Dr. Ian Caine Episode: "Bond"
2017 Elementary Ted Winthrop Episode: "Fly Into a Rage, Make a Bad Landing"
2018 Deception Indar Danek Episode: "Transposition"


Year Title Role Notes
1992 A Little Hotel on the Side Porter, Constable Broadway
1992–93 The Seagull Yakov Broadway
1993 Saint Joan Page to Dunois Broadway
Three Men on a Horse Delivery Boy Broadway
1994 The Flowering Peach Japheth (Standby) Broadway
1995 Company Paul Broadway
1996 DuBarry Was a Lady Ensemble Encores!/New York City Center
1997 The Boys from Syracuse Tailor-Merchant
1997–99 Titanic William Murdoch/Passenger Broadway
1998 Li'l Abner Romeo Skragg Encores!/New York City Center
2001 A Class Act Ed, Lehman (Standby) Broadway
2006–07 The Drowsy Chaperone Aldolpho Broadway
2008–10 South Pacific Luther Billis Broadway
2010–11 Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown Taxi Driver Broadway
2011 Follies Buddy Plummer Washington, D.C./Pre-Broadway
2011–12 Broadway
2012 Los Angeles/Regional
2012–13 Golden Boy Tokio Broadway
2013 The Cradle Will Rock Mister Mister Encores!/New York City Center
Snow Geese Max Hohmann Broadway
2014–15 Cabaret Herr Schultz Broadway
2015–16 Fiddler on the Roof Tevye Broadway
2017 A Midsummer Night's Dream Nick Bottom Shakespeare in the Park
2018 Moulin Rouge! Harold Zidler Boston/Pre-Broadway
2019 My Fair Lady Alfred P. Doolittle Broadway
Moulin Rouge! Harold Zidler Broadway

Video games

Year Title Role Notes
2004 Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas Darius Fontaine – Talk Radio / Radio Commercial (voice)
2006 Neverwinter Nights 2 Khulmar Ironfist / Sir Grayson / Donler / Haeromos (voice)
2007 Manhunt 2 The Legion (voice)
2008 Grand Theft Auto V Middle Aged Gay Man (voice)

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Work Result
2006 Tony Award Best Featured Actor in a Musical The Drowsy Chaperone Nominated
2008 South Pacific Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Actor in a Musical Won
2012 Tony Award Best Actor in a Musical Follies Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actor in a Musical Won
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Actor in a Musical Won
Astaire Award Outstanding Male Dancer in a Broadway Show Nominated
2013 Tony Award Best Featured Actor in a Play Golden Boy Nominated
2014 Best Featured Actor in a Musical Cabaret Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Nominated
2016 Tony Award Best Actor in a Musical Fiddler on the Roof Nominated
Drama Desk Award Outstanding Actor in a Musical Won
Drama League Award Distinguished Performance Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award Outstanding Actor in a Musical Won
2017 Grammy Award Best Musical Theater Album Nominated
2019 IRNE Awards Best Supporting Actor in a Musical Moulin Rouge! Won


  1. ^ Danny Burstein sings 'Blues' in 'Follies' but feels great, May 22, 2012
  2. ^ "THE LEADING MEN: Danny Burstein Digs Into a Group Theatre Classic, Golden Boy". Playbill. Retrieved 2017-09-30.
  3. ^ "From the Footlights: Street smarts on the South Seas". TimesLedger. Retrieved 2017-09-30.
  4. ^ "Danny Burstein on the Golden Roles that Made Him One of Broadways MVPs"
  5. ^ "Dannys Double Life"
  6. ^ "'Chaperone' in Good Company". Jewish Exponent. Retrieved 2017-09-30.
  7. ^ Panarello, Joseph F. "Behind the Stage Door with Danny Burstein" Broadway, July 6, 2006
  8. ^ Murray, Matthew. "Review, 'The Drowsy Chaperone'", May 1, 2006
  9. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "Sher to Discuss South Pacific at Vivian Beaumont March 26" Archived 2009-01-14 at the Wayback Machine., March 7, 2008
  10. ^ Hetrick, Adam. "Starry 'Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown' Opens on Broadway Nov. 4", November 4, 2010
  11. ^ Purcell, Cary. "Danny Burstein, Victoria Clark, Christopher Innvar, Evan Jonigkeit Join Mary-Louise Parker in MTC's 'The Snow Geese'", August 26, 2013
  12. ^ Brantley, Ben. "Theater Review; Patrician Calm Can't Extinguish Embers of Pain" The New York Times, April 8, 2004
  13. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "Grad School is a Real Psych Out at Playwrights Horizons, Beginning Nov. 24", November 24, 2001
  14. ^ Simonson, Robert "Perfect Casting: Danny Burstein Returns to Off-Broadway Revue", April 16, 2002
  15. ^ " 'Merrily We Roll Along', 1994 York Theatre Company Production", accessed June 26, 2012
  16. ^ Isherwood, Charles. "Review: 'Sail Away'" Variety, November 14, 1999
  17. ^ a b "BursteinBiography", accessed June 27, 2012
  18. ^ "Encores! Previous Seasons" Archived 2012-06-29 at the Wayback Machine New York City Center, accessed June 26, 2012
  19. ^ "Danny Burstein Star File"
  20. ^ Gans, Andrew. "'Hats Off, Here They Come, Those Beautiful Girls': Starry Follies Begins Kennedy Center Run May 7" Archived 2011-05-08 at the Wayback Machine,, May 7, 2011
  21. ^ Gans, Andrew (January 22, 2012). "Hey, L.A., We're Coming Your Way: 'Follies' Ends Broadway Run Jan. 22". Playbill. Archived from the original on January 24, 2012. Retrieved January 22, 2012.
  22. ^ Gans, Andrew. "'Once', 'Tribes', 'Follies', 'Salesman', Audra McDonald, Danny Burstein and More Are Drama Desk Winners" Archived 2012-06-06 at the Wayback Machine, June 3, 2012
  23. ^ Jones, Kenneth. "'Once', 'Clybourne Park', 'Porgy and Bess', Audra McDonald, 'Salesman' Win Tony Awards", June 10, 2012
  24. ^ Jones, Kenneth. Danny Burstein, Rebecca Luker, Philip Chaffin Will Sing Forgotten Gershwin Score of Sweet Little Devil on CD", March 26, 2012
  25. ^ Scheib, Ronnie. "Review: 'Duane Incarnate', Tribeca" Variety, (, June 4, 2004
  26. ^ " 'Transamerica' Listing", accessed June 26, 2012
  27. ^ Lazarus, Catie. "Danny Burstein on Auditioning for Martin Scorsese, or is it Marty..." Youtube.
  28. ^ Gordon, David. "Full Casting Revealed for Danny Burstein-Led 'Fiddler on the Roof' Revival" October 7, 2015
  29. ^ Gans, Andrew and Viagas, Robert. "Danny Burstein Is Tevye in Broadway Revival of 'Fiddler on the Roof', Starting Tonight", November 20, 2015
  30. ^ "Fiddler on the Roof – Broadway Musical – 2015 Revival". Retrieved 2017-09-30.
  31. ^ McPhee, Ryan. "Danny Burstein to Join Broadway's 'My Fair Lady' Revival" Playbill, October 16, 2018
  32. ^ "Moulin Rouge! The Musical". Retrieved 2018-05-03.
  33. ^ "Official: 'Moulin Rouge' Will Can-Can to the Al Hirschfeld Theatre in July with Aaron Tveit, Karen Olivo & More!", November 18, 2019
  34. ^ Jones, Kenneth."Madam Librarian! Actors Rebecca Luker and Danny Burstein Tie the Knot" Archived 2012-10-22 at the Wayback Machine, June 14, 2000
  35. ^ Nondorf, Tom. "The Leading Men: Burstein and Barrett", December 3, 2009
  36. ^ "Fast chat: 'Follies' for Danny Burstein" Archived January 14, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, September 8, 2011

External links

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