Eight times a week, Danny Burstein sings Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick's unconventional love song "Do You Love Me?" in the Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof. At home, however, he never has to ask that question. He and wife Rebecca Luker are that self-proclaimed "sickening" couple who can't stand to be apart. But that's not to say there haven't been a few bumps on the road to wedded bliss….
Danny Burstein and Rebecca Luker became friends in 1996 working on a show in San Diego. At the time, Burstein was married with two kids, and Luker had just ended her marriage to actor Gregory Jbara. A year-and-a-half later, Burstein was in the process of splitting up with his wife, when the old friends were cast as lovers in Barry Manilow's Harmony at La Jolla Playhouse. The two bonded over their devastating divorces and realized — thanks in part to their previous experiences — that they had finally found their soulmates. The couple was married in 2000, and now they have a relationship that is as enviable as Luker's high notes. Here, the Broadway vets tell us what made them want to give marriage another go.
You two met doing a show in San Diego, right?
Danny Burstein: That's correct. We were doing a show called Time and Again out at the Old Globe that Jack O'Brien was directing. There were about five of us: Howard McGillin, Jessica Molaskey, George Dvorsky and Rebecca and I who all became fast friends. We're [all] still great great friends.
What about this show made it so conducive to building these friendships?
DB: It didn't do well! That's why. I think that's what pulled us all together. We all needed people to commiserate with who were of a like mind.
Rebecca Luker: That's funny. I never thought of it like that, but that's true; and, when you're out of town, you just have each other.
How did you make the transition from friends to more?
DB: We actually didn't see each other for a year-and-a-half or so after the show closed. Rebecca was going through a relationship transition when we were doing Time and Again, and I was married with two kids. My youngest son had just been born when we met each other, and that year-and-a-half later my ex-wife and I separated. It was a sad, sad, terrible time in my life. [Rebecca and I] were cast opposite each other in a workshop of a musical that Barry Manilow wrote, called Harmony, and that's when we started spilling our guts out to each other. Rebecca had actually been through a divorce before, so she knew exactly where I was and what I was going through. We just started hanging out, and one thing led to another. It was easy because we were friends first, and we didn't have to go through that awkward dating thing wondering whether or not we liked each other. We did like each other. We were friends.
RL: Who knew he was my soulmate?
It's kind of funny that divorce brought you two together.
RL: Isn't it? I know. We went from very sad to very happy.
DB: Ecstatically happy.
Did you have an "official" first date?
DB: Our friend George Dvorsky was doing a show at 92nd Street Y, and we went to see him. That was basically our first date.
Did each of you know it was a date?
DB: We were both kind of like, "Is this a date?" I, all of the sudden, had this "date" feeling as we were sitting down in the theatre. I went, "Oh gosh. We're sort of out together. It's different."
RL: And of course we were attracted to each other. We kissed that night.
DB: I don't remember that.... What the hell was I thinking?
RL: And then the rest is history. We were just inseparable after that.
Except on Broadway that is! You have yet to star together in a Broadway show. Have you been in any other musicals together since Harmony? Any plans to?
DB: No, we haven't starred in any other musicals together, but [this past fall] we actually played husband and wife on an episode of "Law & Order: SVU." We shot for about eight days. Waking up in the morning, going to work with your wife and then spending the entire day working together was a lot of fun. Some people might find that hard, but we hate spending any time away from each other. I know it sounds corny, but it's true. When one of us goes out of town — even if it's just for a couple of nights — we hate it.
RL: Danny always makes me better when I work with him…
DB: Oh, please
RL: He does! I would love to do more work with him. But, as far as starring together on Broadway, I'm not sure. That might be a little hard, because we'd both be there eight times a week. In a way it's worked out well for us, because there's always one person at home to keep the home fires burning.
Do you get envious when one is working and the other is not? Rebecca, do you watch him doing Fiddler and think, "I miss that"?
RL: No, not really. For my part, I'm always just so happy for Danny's success, and I know that I'll be working one of these days, too. In the meantime, I'm actually kind of a homebody. I love to cook and do all that stuff. We have sort of a traditional relationship in that way. If I had to choose one of us to be working and one of us to be at home, I would definitely choose Danny to be working. He doesn't do as well at home. I love you honey, but it's true.
DB: It's true! I'm just terrible without another person to be with. I hate being on my own. We all have our shortcomings. As far as one working and the other one not working: You know you're in love with somebody when you're more excited when they're doing stuff and you can sit back and watch them shine. That's really when you know that everything's working.
RL: Well said. We are just sickening! I can't stand us!
Aw, its cute! Danny, what's your favorite thing that Rebecca cooks?
DB: We have a little getaway place in Pennsylvania that we try to get out to every weekend, and when we get out there, Rebecca bakes some pita chips and makes a white bean dip with garlic that's from the heavens.
RL: Danny can't get enough of that white bean dip.
DB: She also makes a fantastic margarita, and we sit out on our dock on the lake and we have white bean dip and margaritas.
RL: We talk about life, and it's just heaven.
DB: We catch up with each other — and get wasted.
You guys make marriage sound so fun! What made you want to get married again after you'd both been divorced?
DB: I actually found something that I think was lacking in my first marriage. ... My ex-wife and I dated when we were 16, and we made life decisions when we were 16. Then, we both grew up and changed. It was more sad than anything else, because we were very different people. Then, I found somebody who liked the things that I liked, as well, and believed in the same things that I believed in. She was kind and easy to be with and beautiful and sexy and talented and all those things. I just knew that this was the person that I'd been waiting for. If I hadn't gone through my whole first marriage, I never would have come to a place where I would have been ready, and known that this was the right person. My divorce took a long time; with two kids it's always very difficult, but [I remember] that my attorney called on a Tuesday and he said, "Well, I don't know how to say this but, congratulations? It's official. The judge signed your divorce agreement." It's always a bittersweet moment, but Rebecca and I had been dating for a year-and-a-half or so, and I hung up and I looked at Rebecca and I said, "Let's get married." And she went, "Okay." Just like that. The next morning was a Wednesday before [Rebecca had] two shows [at The Music Man]. We went to the courthouse and we got our license. They said we had to wait 48 hours before we got married, so on Friday morning my brother and Rebecca's dresser and our good friend, Dana Goodfriend — Goodfriend is her name, ironically — went with us to the courthouse. Then we walked to Chinatown and had lunch. It was lovely and romantic.
Rebecca, did you go to your show that Friday night, after you got married?
RL: Yes. I just showed up and went, "Hey everybody, I'm married!" Then the girls took me out after the Saturday night show for a celebratory drink.
DB: Then, we had a "honeyday." The reason we have a place in the Poconos is because our friend Patrick Quinn used to have a place out there. He's no longer with us, unfortunately, but he and his partner Marty Casella invited us to get away for a day up there. We got there after our Sunday matinee, and they had decorated their guest room with all these little heart lights, and there was a sticker on the front of the door that said "Honeymoon Suite." We stayed over there Sunday night, and spent all day Monday with them. Then, we went back to our shows on Tuesday. That's the life of theatre actors.