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Burstein Onto the Scene Again!

Tony Award nominee Danny Burstein talks about his upcoming roles in the Broadway musical Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and the HBO series Boardwalk Empire.

Danny Burstein
(© Tristan Fuge)
Danny Burstein has given New York two of its most memorable characters in recent years: Aldolpho in The Drowsy Chaperone and Luther Billis in the current production of South Pacific, earning Tony Award nominations for both roles. While the latter musical closes on August 22 -- after being taped for PBS' Live from Lincoln Center on August 18 -- fans will still be seeing plenty of this talented actor in the coming months.

He will be starring alongside Patti LuPone, Sherie Rene Scott, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Laura Benanti in Jeffrey Lane and David Yazbek's new musical version of the Pedro Almodovar film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, set to begin previews at the Belasco Theatre in October, and he has a recurring role on Martin Scorsese's new HBO series, Boardwalk Empire, debuting on September 19, as casino owner Lolly Steinman. TheaterMania recently chatted with Burstein about these exciting projects.

THEATERMANIA: Bartlett Sher directed South Pacific, and now you get to work with him again as he directs you in Women on the Verge. What are the advantages of working with him again so quickly?
DANNY BURSTEIN: I trust Bart. He's funny, smart, and endlessly imaginative. I think we work well together because we both have a tendency to cut past the bullshit and just focus on the work. I have been very lucky to have worked with some brilliant directors and Bart is among the very best in the world today.

TM: What is your role in Women on the Verge?
DB: I play the Mambo Taxi Driver, who as Pedro Almodovar described to me, is "the angel of the city." He takes on the problems and emotions of those who enter his taxi, and tries to make everything better. There are the unique individuals who embody a city and its spirit and flavor. The taxi driver is one of these special souls.

TM: The Belasco is a very different theater than your current home, the Vivian Beaumont. Are you excited about working there?
DB: Actually, it was my first theater ever on Broadway. I was in as a farce called A Little Hotel on the Side with Tony Randall and my dear Lynn Redgrave. She was an angel. I loved her so much, she was one of us. She was a real lady of the theater, completely unpretentious, completely real, and completely dedicated to doing great work.

TM: What should we know about Lolly Steinman in Boardwalk Empire?
DB: Lolly is the guy who runs one of the major casinos in Atlantic City. But it's quiet, it's not like Atlantic City nowadays. The place is basically a gentleman's establishment with some women there only as color, that kind of thing. But it was an amazing time in 1920, where there was all this illegal stuff, booze, gambling, prostitution, and the officials of the town looked the other way.

Danny Burstein and Rebecca Luker
(© Joseph Marzullo/Retna)
TM: What was your first experience as a fan of Martin Scorcese?
DB: Raging Bull blew me away. It's such a complete film and a complete vision. Everybody knew it was the work of a genius. It was the stars aligning and everything working perfectly. In many ways, I always understood his aesthetic in my heart. He does things that are just not realism, but everything is heightened realism at the right time.

TM: Can you give us a particularly memorable moment of working with or being with Mr. Scorsese?
DB: We actually filmed the pilot for Boardwalk Empire in July of 2009, and in December my wife [Broadway star Rebecca Luker] and I went to the Kennedy Center Honors, and Robert De Niro was being honored. I saw Marty at one of the dinners, and I went up to him and said, "Hey Marty, how's it going?" And he was standing with Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro. And, as always, he was very nice and very sweet, shook my hand, and he said, "You know, I may call you in to do some looping." And then he said, "Do you know Bobby and Harvey?" I said, "No." And he said, "Bobby, this is Danny Burstein, he's an actor." I just thought, "Well, that's what I want on my tombstone someday: 'Danny Burstein. He's an actor.'"