[Broadway Ad Network]

[Broadway Ad Network]

Follow Spot
by Michael Portantiere

Bosom Buddies

  • Burstein-Danny-caption.jpg

    Danny Burstein and Christian Delcroix were both in the brilliant Lincoln Center Theater revival of South Pacific. Danny, a New York theater stalwart who had been Tony Award nominated for his work in The Drowsy Chaperone, played Luther Billis and earned a second Tony nom for his efforts. Christian, a fresh-faced kid who made his Broadway debut in SP, started off in the ensemble and then was bumped up to the featured ensemble role of the Professor about 14 months into the show's two-and-a-half-year run.

    Now, the guys are together again -- and, in a sense, closer than ever -- in the Kennedy Center production of the legendary Stephen Sondheim/James Goldman musical Follies, which opens officially on May 21. Danny plays middle aged Buddy Plummer, whose wife, Sally (Bernadette Peters) is desperately trying to rekindle a decades-old romance with another man; Christian plays Buddy's younger self, before disillusionment with life and love sets in. Given that the cast also includes such names as Jan Maxwell (as Phyllis), Ron Raines (as Ben), Elaine Paige (as Carlotta), and Linda Lavin (as Hattie), our guys are in excellent company. They found a few minutes to speak with me by phone during the final week of rehearsals for a production that has already created a huge amount of buzz.


    BROADWAYSTARS.COM: Danny, I'm hoping you'll repeat what you told me you said to Christian when he was cast as Young Buddy.

    DANNY BURSTEIN: What did I say to Christian? (To Christian:) Didn't you call me?

    CHRISTIAN DELCROIX: Yes. I let him know [that I'd be playing his younger self], and his response was, "Great, you can look forward to becoming an old, balding Jew."

    DANNY: That's right. I told him I felt sorry for him, because that's what he has in his future.

    STARS: Since you guys are playing the same character at different ages, have you observed each other in rehearsals to try to copy each other in terms of body language, etc., to a certain extent?

    DANNY: Yes. (To Christian:) I don't know whether you know that, but I've been watching you and trying to mimic things you're doing. And you the same?

    CHRISTIAN: Yes. Danny has a very specific way of standing and holding his arms and his body.

    STARS: Would you care to expand on that?

    CHRISTIAN: Well, for one thing, he doesn't seem to hold any tension in his shoulders, which is completely different from me. I always have this tension, and I've been trying to relieve that.

    DANNY: You know, the funny thing is, I've noticed that you look more relaxed on stage than ever before.

    STARS: Do you guys have any funny stories from backstage at South Pacific?

    CHRISTIAN: Countless.

    DANNY: It was a bunch of guys just hanging out, so a lot of horrible things happened. Lots of antics.

    CHRISTIAN: There was a lot of gas being passed, onstage and backstage.

    DANNY: But I don't know if you want to publish that.

    CHRISTIAN: I think Danny and I had a good rapport onstage.

    DANNY: A great rapport. It's perfect that Christian and I are playing the same person in Follies, because we both have the same stupid sense of humor. We're always telling stupid jokes, and nobody laughs. It's true, he's like the younger me -- only better looking.

    STARS: Have you guys gotten together to discuss Buddy Plummer's back story?

    DANNY: Yes, we have, and I think we're on the same page. [Director] Eric Schaeffer encouraged all the principals to do that with their younger selves.

    STARS: Would you care to share some of the decisions you made about him -- how Buddy met Sally, and so on?

    CHRISTIAN: We set where he was from, and his background, but we didn't do a lot of work on his early life. Just the essentials of what kind of guy he is, what he does for a living...

    DANNY: ...where he went to school, how he wound up in New York, how he wound up backstage at a theater with Ben. All those kinds of things you have to make up for yourself, so you have something to hold onto. It hopefully makes the character richer and deeper for both of us.

    CHRISTIAN: It's fun for us to talk about Buddy offstage, because we have no interaction onstage, even though we're playing the same character. So we can't bounce ideas off each other during the scenes or the songs.

    STARS: Danny, you've worked with some major stars in the past; Christian, obviously, not so much. The Follies company includes several big names. So, Christian, are you star struck?

    CHRISTIAN: At the first rehearsal, I don't think I introduced myself to any of the stars, because I'm kind of shy. But when we sat in a circle and did the read-through, it was incredible; I looked around, and it was just one star after another. They're all such incredible performers. When all the "divas," as we call them, stood up to sing "Beautiful Girls," it was amazing. It gave you chills.


    STARS: How are you both enjoying D.C.? What are you doing in your free time?

    CHRISTIAN: Going to museums, trying to find new brunch places. I've been golfing a couple of times. Me and the guy who plays young Ben are going to go kayaking.

    DANNY: And I've been working! Rebecca [Luker, Burstein's wife] came down, and we literally had one day to walk around the mall. We walked everywhere -- to all the museums, the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial. I love being here.

    STARS: How well did you guys know Follies before you started rehearsals?

    DANNY: Both of us are shaking our heads; neither of us really knew the show. I had never seen a production of Follies. I really wish I had seen my pal Casey Nicholaw's production for Encores! because I heard it was wonderful. I knew most of the songs, but there are some I really didn't know -- like "Who's That Woman," which is a show stopper.

    CHRISTIAN: I didn't know "Live, Laugh, Love" or "Lucy and Jessie."

    STARS: But were you aware of the whole mystique of the show?

    CHRISTIAN: Totally. We learned about it in musical theater history class in school [at Florida State University], how a lot of people consider it some of Sondheim's best work. I definitely knew the pedigree of the show.

    STARS: What do you think happens to Buddy and Sally, and Ben and Phyllis, after what we see in the show?

    DANNY: Well, every actor has his own take on that. Personally, I don't think the couples stay together, but you may get a different answer from Ron, Jan, and Bernadette. To me, after Buddy has gone through the hardships of being married to Sally for 30 years and then finally has the courage to tell her it's over, I think that's it. In order for the character to have any integrity at the end of the show, I think he has to realize that. But the first time our costume designer, Gregg Barnes, saw a run-through, he said he thought the couples do stay together. It's exciting that people continue to talk about the characters after the curtain goes down, because they're so real. The audience relates to their situation in many ways -- but, hopefully, not in too many ways.

    STARS: How about Young Buddy and Young Sally? Christian, do you think she ever really loved him, or was he just a fall-back because she couldn't have Ben?

    CHRISTIAN: My arc in the show is just a small sliver of Buddy's life. Toward the end of the show, he definitely has doubts about his relationship with Sally; he sees her with Ben and knows there's something going on, even if he doesn't know the full extent of it at first. But when you're young, I think you have so much optimism about love and relationships that you're willing to let more slide by than when you get older.

    STARS: One last, specific question: The number "The Right Girl" has been staged very differently in various productions, sometimes as a solo for Buddy, sometimes with Young Buddy dancing in the background as a sort of ghost. Can I ask how it's been staged for this production?

    DANNY: Well...there is someone else in the number besides me. We can't say who, but we can tell you that Christian is not in it. We tried him out, but it just didn't work.

    CHRISTIAN: I failed.

    DANNY: Of course, we're kidding. It's not true at all, so don't publish that!

    Published on Tuesday, May 17, 2011

    Michael Portantiere has more than 30 years' experience as an editor and writer for TheaterMania.com, InTHEATER magazine, and BACK STAGE. He has interviewed theater notables for NPR.org, PLAYBILL, STAGEBILL, and OPERA NEWS, and has written notes for several cast albums. Michael is co-author of FORBIDDEN BROADWAY: BEHIND THE MYLAR CURTAIN, published in 2008 by Hal Leonard/Applause. Additionally, he is a professional photographer whose pictures have been published by THE NEW YORK TIMES, the DAILY NEWS, and several major websites. (Visit www.followspotphoto.com for more information.) He can be reached at [email protected]

    Why are you looking all the way down here?
    For more articles by Michael Portantiere, click the links below!

    Previous: Tom Postilio: This Time Around

    Next: Euan Morton's Roots

    Or go to the Archives

[Broadway Ad Network]

[Broadway Ad Network]