Mike Burstyn was born Michael Burstein. His parents Pesach Burstein and Lillian Lux, stars of the Yiddish theater, introduced Mike and his twin sister Susan to show business when they were very young. Billed as Motele and Zisele, they spent their childhood performing on stage as part of The Four Bursteins, travelling around the world with their family and performing in the Yiddish musicals and melodramas their father produced.
Around 1963, Burstyn decided to strike out on his own and to establish his own career as an Israeli performer. In 1966 he starred in an Israeli musical film, Shnei Kuni Leml (also known as Two Kuni Lemel, The Flying Matchmaker). The film was a major success for Mike and provided a small but wonderful role for his father.
By 1978, Mike had his own TV show in the Netherlands. The Mike Burstyn Show ran until 1981. He has also appeared on American television shows such as Law & Order, Broadway shows, Israeli theater, off-Broadway Yiddish theater productions, and touring shows.
Burstyn was a Yiddish theater star performing for a shrinking and aging audience and longed to have a mainstream Broadway career, and in 1980 he got his wish with a role in Barnum, eventually replacing Jim Dale in the title role.
But he never stopped being a star of Yiddish theater. Burstyn was nominated for a Drama Desk Award for his performance in the off-Broadway revival production of The Rothschilds (1990) in the role originally played by Hal Linden.
In 2005 when Mike Burstyn starred in the Yiddish American Musical Theatre production of On Second Avenue the following review appeared in The New York Times: “Six appealing performers with six fine voices share roughly equal time delivering songs and shtick from the heyday of Yiddish theater, yet the show's biggest name, Mike Burstyn, shines all that much brighter in his solo moments, radiating affability like a fireplace on a cold night. “ (March 16, 2005).
The JSA does not sell CDs. This performer's music is available for purchase at: www.mikeburstyn.com.
Music in this collection courtesy of Mike Burstyn.