Shedding 75 Roles, Arnie Burton Will Play Just Six

PlayBlog   Shedding 75 Roles, Arnie Burton Will Play Just Six
When The 39 Steps closes Jan. 10 as Broadway's longest-running play in seven years, Arnie Burton — in the role(s) of Man #2 in this cast of four — will have logged up something like 771 performances of what he estimates is 75 parts.

"I've never counted," he admitted on opening night, "but supposedly there are 155 parts, so [sharing them with Man #1] I'd say that I do 75 roles, something like that. That's including a bog, a river, a brook, all inanimate objects. I play four different characters in one scene, and I have a scene with myself." Pretty exhausting stuff.

So what is Burton doing next? Is he going to Disney World? No, he's going to The Temperamentals, as the one new recruit in the five-member cast that's taking the play for an open-ended run Off-Broadway at New World Stages. It starts Feb. 28. (For the record, Tom Beckett originated Burton's Temperamentals track in 2009.)

Jan Marans' historical play, which was well received in its Off-Broadway lift-off last year, focuses on the creation of the Mattachine Society, a pre-Stonewall gay-rights group of the '50s, by communist Harry Hay (Thomas Jay Ryan of In the Next Room or the vibrator play) and his lover, designer Rudi Gernreich (Michael Urie of “Ugly Betty”). Matt Schneck and Sam Breslin Wright share the multi-role-tasking.

If not a month in the country, the play offers Burton only six roles to juggle: Vincente Minnelli, Chuck Rowland, a clerk, a scared man and a uke-playing reveler. No bog?

It's possible Burton's next-door-neighbor at New World Stages will be…The 39 Steps (although that show still has a few more performances to go at the Helen Hayes, and its spokesman declined to confirm or deny an Off-Broadway move). More later. Or not.

— Harry Haun

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