Leo Burmester

Leo Burmester


Born: February 1, 1944
Louisville, Kentucky, USA

Died: June 28, 2007
New York, New York

Obituary: Leo Burmester, a rangy, gruff actor known for his Broadway turns in Buried Child and Les Miserables, died June 28, 2007, at the age of 63, according to friends and colleagues in the theatre community.

The cause of death was leukemia. He had been in a coma for several days following surgery to relieve pressure on his brain.

Mr. Burmester was the original Thenardier, the comically unscrupulous innkeeper, in the New York premiere of Les Miserables. He and his scheming wife sang the rollicking anthem to treachery "Master of the House," an audience favorite. The couple were responsible for whatever humor could be found in the dark-hued musical. In act two, he alone delivered the grimmer song "Dog Eats Dog." Critic John Simon said he sang the part with "raucous deviltry."

The actor would go on to play other atavistic, amoral, rural characters. He was Bradley, the cantankerous, one-legged brother in the 1996 Gary Sinise-directed revival of Sam Shepard's Buried Child, and was Sid Davis in a 1998 revival of Ah, Wilderness! at Lincoln Center. Of his performance in the Shepard play, Ben Brantley wrote in the New York Times, "Mr. Burmester is as good as ever as the satanic bully who can turn instantly into a sobbing brat."

His other Broadway credits include the short-lived musicals The Civil War (1999), Thou Shalt Not (2001) and Urban Cowboy (2003). He most recently acted in the Off-Broadway revival of The Fantasticks, playing Hucklebee.

Born in Louisville, KY, on Feb. 1, 1944, Mr. Burmester found early work at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, creating roles in Marsha Norman's Getting Out and James McLure's Lone Star. When the two plays were done in New York, they became the actor's Off-Broadway and Broadway debuts, respectively.

On film, Mr. Burmester was a favorite of director John Sayles, who used him "Passion Fish" and "Lone Star." Martin Scorcese directed him in "The Last Temptation of Christ." He was Holly Hunter's father in "Broadcast News," and had a large role as a decompression expert in James Cameron's underwater epic "The Abyss." He also worked for directors such as Sidney Lumet, William Friedkin, Clint Eastwood, Robert Altman and John Schlesinger.

Mr. Burmester is survived by his wife, Lora Lee Echobelli, and two children, Daniel and Colette.



Playbill Cover - Urban Cowboy Urban Cowboy
Mar. 27, 2003 - May 18, 2003
Uncle Bob Performer
Who's Who
Playbill Cover - Thou Shalt Not Thou Shalt Not
Oct. 25, 2001 - Jan. 6, 2002
Officer Michaud Performer
Who's Who
Playbill Cover - The Civil War The Civil War
Apr. 22, 1999 - Jun. 13, 1999
Autolycus Fell Performer
Who's Who
Playbill Cover - Ah, Wilderness! Ah, Wilderness!
Mar. 18, 1998 - May 3, 1998
Sid Davis Performer
Who's Who
Playbill Cover - Buried Child Buried Child
Apr. 30, 1996 - Jun. 30, 1996
Bradley Performer
Playbill Cover - Les Misérables Les Misérables
Mar. 12, 1987 - May 18, 2003
Chain Gang Performer
Who's Who
    Thénardier Performer
Who's Who
Playbill Cover - Raggedy Ann Raggedy Ann
Oct. 16, 1986 - Oct. 19, 1986
General D. Performer
Playbill Cover - Big River Big River
Apr. 25, 1985 - Sep. 20, 1987
Pap Finn
Sep. 3, 1985
Playbill Cover - Lone Star & Pvt. Wars Lone Star & Pvt. Wars
Jun. 7, 1979 - Aug. 5, 1979
Ray Performer
    Silvio Understudy
    Woodruff Gately Understudy

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