In a decade’s time, Danny Burstein has received six Tony Award nominations. Though his Broadway career began with A Little Hotel on the Side in 1992, it wasn’t until his scene-stealing turn as Aldolpho in The Drowsy Chaperone that the Tony nods started to roll in.
“The first time I was nominated, [my wife] Rebecca [Luker] and I jumped in the air [and] threw our arms in the air,” Burstein recalled at the Tony nominations press junket the day after receiving his sixth nomination for his performance as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof. “This time, we were watching the live telecast in the morning, and we both just got a huge smile on our faces when the name was announced. I gave Rebecca a big hug, and it just felt great.”
Following his Featured Actor nomination in 2006 for The Drowsy Chaperone, Burstein received Tony nominations in 2008 for playing Luther Billis in South Pacific, in 2012 for the leading role of Buddy Plummer in Follies, in 2013 for his performance as Tokio in Golden Boy (his first for a non-musical) and in 2014 for playing Herr Schultz in Cabaret. This nomination marks the tenth year since his first.
Has the glitz, glamour and excitement of a Tony nomination worn off for Burstein? “No, it never gets old,” he said. “It never gets old at all. It’s very, very exciting.
“It’s this great pat on the back from the entire community. I will say that this is the hardest I’ve ever worked in a show. It is the hardest role ever. It’s three hours of singing and screaming, and I’m only offstage for 13 minutes the entire time, and it’s quite a workout every single time.”
In the fifth Broadway revival of Fiddler (one that has been re-imagined with a minimalist flair by director Bartlett Sher), Burstein plays Jewish milkman Tevye, who strives to maintain "Tradition" as he sees his three oldest daughters fall in love. From its opening number through the show’s final moments when Burstein and his onstage family must flee Anatevka, the Tony nominee carries the weight of the show on his shoulders.
He enjoys the Fiddler challenge and, for that matter, any obstacle thrown his way.
“The biggest challenge of my career?” he asked himself thinking back over a career spanning 17 Broadway credits and numerous films. “Not being stereotyped. I’ve worked very hard not to have that happen. I’ve tried to be as diverse in my casting as possible, and I told my agents from the very beginning that I don’t want an average, usual kind of career. I want you to think outside of the box when you look for things for me in casting situations. Almost ten years ago now, my agent wrote me and said, ‘I’ve got the perfect role for you for a film.’ He sent me a film script. He said, ‘It’s a gay deaf pedophile who works in a pizza shop,’ and I said, ‘That’s it! Perfect.’ And, son of a gun, I read the script, and I loved it, and I auditioned for it, and I got it.”
That was for an indie film in 2012 named Nor’easter, in which his character couldn’t be further removed from a Latin lover named Aldolpho, a tough boxing trainer named Tokio or a warmhearted, hard-working father named Tevye.
Just before his curtain call at the Broadway Theatre the night after Tony nominations were announced, Burstein’s onstage daughter Alexandra Silber (Tzeitel) caught a glimpse of his gratitude.
“There’s this memory [that] will never leave my mind,” she said in a Facebook Live interview with Playbill. “The six lovers all bow just before Danny and Jessica [Hecht] across the stage, and the night of May 3, I caught Danny’s face, and there was just something on it that was so beautiful—just this humility, but also [the thought] that he was carrying a legacy.
“When you think about it, there are only five men in the history of the world who could possibly be nominated for a Tony to play Tevye on Broadway, and he’s a part of that chain of links. Even though this is his sixth Tony nomination, this is not a negligible moment. This is a huge moment for him, and it was such a joy to clap for him.”
Michael Gioia is the Features Manager at Playbill.com. Follow him on Twitter at @PlaybillMichael.