From Fontana farm boy to CLO favorite to Broadway star.  That’s the journey David Burnham has been on since his growing-up years spent halfway between San Bernardino and Rancho Cucamonga, and quite a journey it has been.  A little less than six years ago, Burnham was starring down in Long Beach in Musical Theatre West’s production of Hot Mikado, following appearances in MTW’s La Cage Aux Folles and Children Of Eden.  He then strutted his dramatic stuff in The Woman In Black at NoHo’s The Road Theatre, one of a long list of pre-Broadway credits. The Great White Way came calling in 2005 when Burnham appeared in the original cast of the multiple-Tony-winning The Light In The Piazza, and when the National Tour played the Ahmanson with Burnham as Fabrizio, it was a fanfare-worthy homecoming for the local boy turned Broadway star.  Then came Burnham’s year as Fiyero in the Broadway production of Wicked, all of the above adding up to more than enough reason for Fontana’s favorite son to headline his very own cabaret show at L.A.’s Upright Cabaret.


Following a standing-room-only November 13 performance, Burnham returned a week later for not just one but two more SRO shows.  StageSceneLA was delighted to attend Sunday’s “Late Show,” and what an evening of music it was.

With Todd Schroeder’s impeccable piano artistry backing up the star’s powerful and versatile vocal chords (and with a little help from an occasional spray of glycerin on the chords), Burnham received ovation after ovation for performing a marvelously eclectic choice of songs.

After starting out with a jazzy rendition of Harold Arlen’s “Get Happy,” Burnham switched gears with a cabaret favorite, the exquisite “Run Away With Me,” a song heralding much future success for its writers Brian Lowdermilk and Kate Kerrigan.

Following a hilarious recounting of a miscalculated audition (Burnham thought Piazza was Grease Italian Style and auditioned accordingly), L.A.’s first Fabrizio segued into arguably the most gorgeous of Adam Guettel’s gorgeous Piazza creations, Fabrizio’s ode to Clara “Love To Me.”  

Fun Fact:  When The King And I was turned into an animated feature, it was Burnham who provided Lun Tha’s singing voice—and the model for the Broadway star’s very own “action figure.”  Boxed Lun Tha doll in hand, Burnham serenaded the Vermont audience with the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic “I Have Dreamed.”

A jazzy, pizzazzy “Feeling Good” (from The Roar Of The Greasepaint, The Smell Of The Crowd) preceded The Baker’s Wife’s “Proud Lady,” one of Stephen Schwartz’s cleverest creations and one which allowed Burnham to strut and flirt with the best of them, as any Broadway star is allowed and indeed expected to do from time to time.   

A starring role in Wicked would be any young musical theater leading man’s dream come true, and Burnham’s powerful performance of “As Long As You’re Mine” was ample proof as to why he booked the part.  Those who’ve seen Wicked (has anyone not?) know that Fiyero ended up a scarecrow, a perfect segueway into the delightful “If I Only Had A Brain,” from The Wizard Of Oz” and an exquisite rendition of “Over The Rainbow.”

Ray Jessel’s “I Think About Sex” provided a bit of comic relief, as did Christine Lavin’s “Regretting What I Said,” which opens thus: “I didn’t mean it when I said, ‘I hope the cable in the elevator snaps when you step on board.’”  And that’s just for starters.

Burnham had only just begun to serenade a lucky audience member with “Suddenly Seymour” from Little Shop Of Horrors when said audience member suddenly grabbed the mike to sing along. A set-up, of course, which allowed huge-voiced Joan Ryan to share the stage with Burnham’s Seymour for a duet that brought the house down.

Every Broadway star worth his or her salt probably has a CD to promote, and David Burnham is no exception. (His CD is well worth promoting, by the way.)  Craig Carnelia’s “Flight” is Burnham’s favorite on the self-titled album, and his performance of this soaring ballad proved why.

Another of the show’s Burnham has appeared in is the Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin/Sammy Davis Jr. tribute, The Rat Pack, and what song better to evoke Ol’ Blue Eyes than his trademark “That’s Life,” which earned Burnham another huge round of applause.  David Phelps’ “Fly Again” became a moving tribute to Burham’s late mother.  

Officially wrapping up the evening was Jerry Herman’s “It Only Takes A Moment,” but Burnham was ready with a much appreciated encore of another track from his CD, Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile.”

Chris Isaacson and Shane Scheel are the two men responsible for Upright Cabaret, bringing New York style Cabaret to L.A. with their trademark upright piano backing up the best of Broadway (and Southland) musical theater stars. David Burnham is both, a Broadway headliner with Southern California roots—and fans galore on both coasts.  Sunday night’s audience got to see why Burnham has become a star. With his boy-next-door charm and good looks (yet with a certain distinctive edge) and one of the most glorious voices ever to soar out across the fourth wall, David Burnham is well on his way to what will surely come in short order, originating a starring role on Broadway.  Save up your pennies to be there on opening night!

–Steven Stanley
November 22, 2009
                                                                                                                     Photos: Lily Lim


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