Danny Burstein has, in some ways, been preparing to play My Fair Lady’s Alfred P. Doolittle for most of his life.
During his time studying at the Moscow Art Theatre in the 1980s, Burstein found himself mesmerized by the accents in London during a trip there. Armed with a recording device, he began asking strangers to say their names and where they were from for him. “And they were happy to!” he says. “One guy’s named George.’” He immediately recreates the man’s British dialect, adding more syllables to “George” than even Maggie Smith could find. “I can’t wait to throw some of that into the show. I’ve been mining things my whole life, and now I get to pull them out of my bag of tricks. When it stops being fun I guess you stop.”
If 2019 is any indication, things will continue to be fun for the six-time Tony nominee for some time to come. In addition to his run in Lincoln Center Theater’s My Fair Lady, replacing Norbert Leo Butz as Eliza’s hedonistic father, Burstein will recreate his role as Harold Zidler when Moulin Rouge! The Musical opens this summer at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.
“I can’t express how lucky I am to be still working, and I know how blessed I am to be doing that,” he says. “I do that because I’m able to do that—because I keep trying to make it better every night. That’s sort of my goal, when I get out there.”
As for Alfred, Burstein laughingly jokes that he’s mainly focused on not stealing from Butz’s memorable performance, but he’s also enough of a self-professed theatre nerd that he plans to pay homage to the legendary George Rose, who won a Tony for the 1976 revival.
“If he can get away with it, that’s the way he leads his life,” Burstein says with a laugh about the role. “And he’s been blessed with the gift of gab. That’s why it’s so funny trying to remember these lines in a linear way, because every time you expect him to go right, he goes left. Staying on top of all his ideas has been fascinating to me, learning the piece. But at the end of all his going around in circles he actually makes sense and you know where he’s coming from.”
And though audiences will only have 16 weeks to catch Burstein in My Fair Lady, he’s planning to make every moment count.
“You’re flying by the seat of your pants and it’s terrifying, but I can’t wait,” he says of stepping into a show as a replacement. “I did the show in community theatre when I was a kid, and I had a blast. It’s one of the most perfect musical theatre pieces ever written.”
My Fair Lady plays Broadway’s Vivian Beaumont Theatre (150 W 65th Street at Lincoln Center) in an open-ended run.