Feb 8, 2013

A Tummler With Gravitas

Burstein at the 2012 Tonys, performing "Buddy's Blues" from Follies

I first spoke to the extraordinary, multifaceted actor Danny Burstein for a TDF story back in 2008, when he made a splash as Luther Billis in Bart Sher's South Pacific. That performance established him as the kind of actor who could both evoke vaudeville-era greats like Bert Lahr and George Burns and achieve a kind of gritty, grounded naturalism. It makes a kind of sense, then, that his favorite actors, as I learned more recently, are Spencer Tracy, Alec Guinness, and Marx Brothers.

The occasion for learning this was this profile for the paper of record, and the occasion for the profile is Burstein's role in Roundabout's revival of Lanford Wilson's bittersweet two-hander Talley's Folly. The part follows extremely closely on the heels of his very different supporting turn in Sher's exquisitely staged Golden Boy; indeed, this is shaping up to be a non-musical season for the versatile Burstein

“I’ve got the drama bug — I wanted to feed my play side again,” said Mr. Burstein while walking to dinner, past the former midtown site of his alma mater, La Guardia Performing Arts High School, as well as the Broadway theaters he’s worked in since the early 1990s.

Those Broadway credits didn’t come until he’d had a similar self-imposed furlough from musical theater. Though he’d gotten his Equity card doing musical summer stock in the 1980s, “I never particularly thought of myself as a musical actor,” he said. So he got an MFA in acting from the University of California, San Diego, which landed him the agent he still has today, Philip Adelman.

“You could tell even in his grad showcase that he was touched by genius,” said Mr. Adelman in a phone interview. But genius isn’t always an easy sell.

“He’s uncategorizable,” admitted Mr. Adelman, who in addition to stage roles has landed Mr. Burstein work on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire” and in several independent films. “The blessing and the challenge of being as unique as Danny is that there isn’t any identifiable slot for him. The perfect role wasn’t going to present itself, but there are so many roles he could do.”

Such is the character actor’s lot, but Mr. Burstein has embraced it with a vengeance.
RTWT here.

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