I've known Danny Burstein since he was 15 or 16, when he played Og the leprechaun in an amateur production of Finian's Rainbow as I ran the follow spot. I'd be lying if I told you that I jumped up and shouted, "That kid is going to be a star!" But I sure could see that Danny was exceptionally talented -- and I would have probably bet that, with any luck at all, he'd have a fine career as a professional actor.

Fast forward about 30 years. Danny is now acknowledged as one of the New York theater's most valuable players. Among his copious credits, he received two Tony Award nominations two years apart for his hilarious portrayal of the ridiculous Aldolfo in The Drowsy Chaperone and his pitch-perfect performance as Luther Billis in Lincoln Center Theater's magical revival of South Pacific. (He should also have played the central role of Ed Kleban in A Class Act, but I'm not going to re-open that can of worms...).

Having been there with him on the ground floor, as it were, I was thrilled to be present at Sardi's on Tuesday, February 3, 2009, as Danny was presented with a portrait of him that will now join the restaurant's fabled collection of visages of showbiz celebs. For the event, he was joined by his gorgeous wife, Rebecca Luker -- a Broadway star in her own right -- plus several of his castmates from South Pacific and his past shows.

"I was still going to the High School of the Performing Arts when I did Finian's Rainbow," Danny reminisced after I brought up that long-ago performance. "The show was part of something called "The Great Irish Fair" in Brooklyn, and we did it in a tent under the bridge. It was produced by a priest, Father Funaro. I'll never forget him standing outside that tent, trying to drum up an audience, when Joe Papp came walking by. Joe took one look inside the tent, turned on his heel, and headed in the other direction." Danny Burstein; photo by Michael Portantiere

Key Subjects: 
Danny Burstein, South Pacific, Finian's Rainbow, Drowsy Chaperone, Sardi's, portrait
Michael Portantiere
February 2009