26 June 2009 | Chip_douglas
A Yiddish version of "This is Tom Jones"
People on the internet love to talk about their favorite TV shows of old. Here in the Netherlands there are several forums devoted to classic television, and of course most of the talk is concentrated on children's television and programs teenagers used to watch. Whereas there are plenty of 40 year old to be found posting about seventies shows for children and teens, it is quite difficult to find people remembering more mature programs of the day. Apparently the generation that came before isn't quite as interested in conversing about television as their offspring are. Take "The Mike Burstyn Show" for instance, when this variety program popped up again on oldies channel Hilversum Best, this reviewer immediately went online to find some background information (it would be nice if Hilversum Best had little informational blurbs before each show like their competitor /Geschiedenis has). Yet all I could find is one mention of the program on Burstyn's Wikipedia page. Surely there must have been people watching it back in the day as the show ran for four years. Nobody's talking about it though. So I guess I'll take it upon myself to be the first to shed some light on this forgotten musical extravaganza.
New Yorker Mike Bursteyn was born into show business as they say for both his parents, Pesach Burstein and Lillian Lux were stars of the Yiddish theaters. Before long, Mike and his twin sister were in on the act, now called the Four Bursteins. From here Mikey carved out a career in musical theater, but the exact how and why he came to have his own comedy variety show in Holland I haven't been able to ascertain as yet. What I do know is that the Dutch adore English and American entertainers who are willing to pick up the Dutch language. The Mike Bursteyn Show was a combination of musical numbers (as in Broadway musicals), special guests and comedy. The show must have been broadcast around prime time, for the jokes were all extremely stale and predictable, but Bursteyn's endearing attempts to say them in a language foreign to him made all the difference. Actually, in an early show they also had him performing sketches, but that didn't work out so he ended up doing stand up in between the songs instead.
Clad in a tux and with a head full of curls, Bursteyn reminds me of a Jewish Tom Jones. In fact, the whole show seems to be modeled after 'This is Tom Jones' and the later Las Vegas bound shows The Tiger' hosted between the late sixties and early eighties. Being a good clean Jewish boy, Mike's act didn't ooze with sex appeal quite as much as Tom's did, but you get the picture. Bursteyn's forte lay more in picking songs from popular musicals and then having the Gillian Lynne dancers act out precisely what he was singing about. Adding backup support were Dutch lovelies Jodi Pijper, Martha Hollestelle & Diny Groeneveld (none of whom ever really managed to break out of the supporting range unfortunately) In addition to the Dutch guest stars, MB managed to get some of his friends (and family) from the New York stage to fly over to the low countries for a song or two.
Bursteyn ended each show with his trademark 'Tomorrow', several years before John Huston brought the musical Annie to the big screen to the delight of generations of little girls everywhere. Of course if you do a search for the 1982 Annie, you will find hundreds of Dutch thirty- something women who know all the lyrics by heart. None of them will have heard of Mike Burnsteyn though...
7 out of 10