AUGUST 2, 2018 – Danny Burstein recently spoke to the Journal during a pre-press opening interview. The six-time Tony Award nominee (“Follies” and “South Pacific”at Lincoln Center, among others) was expressing his enthusiasm about following up his 2016 Tony nomination as Tevye with the role of impresario Harold Zidler in “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” now in its pre-Broadway world premiere as the inaugural production at the newly-restored Emerson Colonial Theatre.
“It’s emotional to be there [at the Colonial] with all the history the people who have performed there,” he said. As for the role of Zidler, the real life owner of the title Belle Epoque turn-of-the-20th-century Paris venue, the Broadway veteran welcomed the challenge of playing such an impactful and complex figure.
“He made the Moulin Rouge what it was,” he observed. “He knew to bring the girls and the can-can into the forefront.” At the same time, Burstein reflected, “He (Zidler) has a certain look (in the show) yet he wears many masks. He’s a friend and a confidant. He’s Machiavellian and yet he has a big heart.” Was Zidler Jewish? Little seems to be known about this elusive figure, though some other important impresarios – notably Sol Hurok – were Jewish.
If Burstein is excited about his role, he is equally enthusiastic about the musical itself. “You get your money’s worth the moment you enter the Colonial.”
While the opulent 2001 Best Picture nominee of the same name won Oscars for art direction and costumes, the musical boasts its own honored talents. Look for a book by Tony Award author John Logan (the play “Red” about Jewish painter Mark Rothko), direction by Tony nominee Alex Timbers (“Peter and the Star Catcher”) and such design talent as Tony winners Alexander Dodge (sets) and Catherine Zuber (costumes).
Burstein also alerted theatergoers to “a wonderful homage to Toulouse Lautrec” – with acclaimed Sahr Ngaujah (IRNE winner for the tour of Broadway hit “Fela!”) playing the distinctive Montmartre painter. From the score – which includes song from the last half century – he singled out a gothic, pop and rock song “Shake It Out” by the English indie group Florence and the Machine.
Especially thrilled that his parents will be seeing “Moulin Rouge!” August 4, Burstein – who plays the kosher butcher father in the fine adaptation of the Philip Roth novel “Indignation” – mentioned that he met the late great writer through his own Queens College professor father Harvey Burstein.
“Moulin Rouge!” derives from the Alexander Dumas work “Lady of the Camelias” and the Guiseppe Verdi opera “La Traviata,” as well as the Baz Luhrmann film. Tony nominee Aaron Tveit is poet-writer Christian, and Tony winner Karen Olivo (“West Side Story”) plays headlining cabaret singer-actress Satine. Choreography is by Sonya Tayeh. Justine Levine is orchestrating, arranging and supervising the show’s music.
“Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” world premiere presented by Emerson and Ambassador Theatre Group at Emerson Colonial Theatre, Boston, through August 19. Call 888-616-0272 or visit EmersonColonialTheatre.com.