Four-time Tony nominee Danny Burstein has been recognized for his work in musicals like Company, The Drowsy Chaperone, South Pacific and Follies. But in the past year alone, the Broadway favorite has given three fantastic dramatic performances: a Tony-nominated turn as a boxing trainer in the Broadway revival of Clifford Odets' Golden Boy, an achingly romantic performance in Lanford Wilson's Talley's Folly, and now a feisty supporting role as a German doctor facing discrimination, financial hardship and more in Sharr White's The Snow Geese. If you assume Burstein is getting set for a sabbatical after Manhattan Theatre Club's world premiere play closes on December 15, think again: The in-demand actor will jump into rehearsals to play Herr Schultz in the March 2014 Broadway revival of Cabaret. Broadway.com chatted with Burstein about how he balances working (all the time!) with family, how his sons have changed the way he looks at the world and why he'd love to be a part of a Drowsy Chaperone movie.
From Golden Boy to Talley's Folly to The Snow Geese, you've been acting non-stop! Would you describe yourself as a workaholic?
Yes, I would! [Laughs.] Even when I'm not at work, per se, I'm home working on other material. I do feel most alive and like I'm contributing to the world if I'm working. But having said that, I've got a busy regular life, too, with family.
The Snow Geese is a world premiere production. What made you want to be a part of it?
When I read the play, I really enjoyed it, and I had seen [playwright] Sharr White's The Other Place last season, which I thought was pretty wonderful. It was a combination of things: I was drawn to the tragic story, I've wanted to work with [director] Daniel Sullivan for some time now, and I've always thought Mary-Louise Parker is brilliantly talented.
This play marks the Broadway return of Mary-Louise Parker, who plays your sister-in-law. What's it been like to work with her?
Oh, I absolutely love her! In every show, she has moments of sheer brilliance that just take your breath away—moments other actors only dream they could achieve in their lifetime. I don't know how she does it. She's just so in touch with her emotions; they're always there at her fingertips when she needs to call on them. There's great beauty in everything she does. Not only is she physically beautiful, but the emotional life that surrounds her when she's on stage is tremendously beautiful, too.
She recently said she was nervous about acting on stage again after losing her father, and because of "mean-spirited" press. Has there ever been a point when you considered giving up this career?
Actually, I never have, personally. I completely understand wanting to do that for somebody who's lost somebody close to them, and wanting to put aside the things that make you happy for a while. And I can understand not wanting to go on stage and tap into those emotions because it's dangerous territory.
You've done a three back-to-back dramas, but you'll be returning to musicals next spring in Cabaret. How excited are you about that?
So excited! The truth is, I wanted to be part of the last production [in 1998]! I didn't know who the hell I would play, but I just thought it was brilliant. I so wanted to be in that show! This opportunity came along, which I first heard about from [Roundabout Artistic Director] Todd Haimes, and then I spoke to [director] Sam Mendes, and we just hit it off. I couldn't believe my luck. It's a brilliant, brilliant piece of theater, and then you add on the production values that Sam and [co-director] Rob Marshall have put together. It's terribly exciting to be a part of it. And, of course, it means that I get to hang out with John Kander again, who's not only a genius but also one of the most generous, loving human beings on Earth. [Burstein helped develop Curtains, which debuted on Broadway when he was in The Drowsy Chaperone.]
So you're not letting the fact that Herr Schultz is an elderly fruit shop owner mess with your head?
[Laughs] Oh no! Sam and I actually talked about that, and he was hoping to go a little bit younger with it to ensure that there were really stakes and that he and Fraulein [Linda Emond] were really talking about having a real life together. Not that I'm a spring chicken anymore! God knows I could show you my knees from dancing on the stage for 30 years.
You've received four Tony nominations and you're very much in demand. Do you finally feel able to relax about your career?
I always feel like there's more to explore, and the work itself excites me. I love doing a lot of homework and analyzing the text and making every moment on stage as honest and fun as possible. That stuff never gets old. It's only taken 30 years for people to pick up the phone and call me [about roles], which is fantastic! That's a great perk, I have to tell you [laughs].
Your wife, Rebecca Luker, is currently taking over the role of Marie in Cinderella for your Snow Geese spouse, Victoria Clark. How do you balance two busy Broadway careers?
I've heard that some for people who have been married to other performers there can be a sense of rivalry or jealousy, but that has never even crossed our minds. We're so proud of each other. We have a professional partnership as well as a marriage. We happily collaborate on everything.
Your sons, Alexander and Zachary, are both artistic. How has being a father to two young men influenced your work?
Paying for college is making me continue to work extra hard [laughs]! I will give you that right off the bat. Having the two of them has made me reflect on so many things, and it's made me a better person. I'm one of those people who always had his nose to the grindstone when I was younger, and maybe that helped me get to where I am today, but because of them there's just so much more love in my life. They've made me appreciate life and stop and smell the roses along the way. They've made me a better person by teaching me about love and about patience.
The Drowsy Chaperone is being adapted into a film with Geoffrey Rush. Would you like to play Latin lover Aldolpho again?
I would love to! That sounds very exciting to me. I would love it if they brought most of the cast back, mostly because we all love each other so damn much. It's one of those companies where I feel like I could pick up the phone and call any one of them right now and we could talk for an hour. We were all very, very close. It was an important show for a lot of us, the first time we had been featured in an important way. It gave a lot of really good New York actors the opportunity to shine, and for that I'll be forever grateful.
See Danny Burstein in The Snow Geese at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre.