John Rubinstein is an actor, director, composer, singer, and teacher. He was born in Los Angeles, California in 1946, the same year his father, the renowned Polish-born concert pianist Artur Rubinstein, became an American citizen. He is the youngest of four children. His sister, Eva, danced and acted on Broadway, creating the role of "Margo" in the original production of "The Diary of Anne Frank"; she later became an internationally known photographer. His brother, Paul, recently retired from his career as a stockbroker in New York; his sister, Alina, is a psychiatrist in Manhattan. John attended St. Bernard's School and Collegiate School in New York City, and then returned to Los Angeles in 1964 to study theater at UCLA. During his college years, he began his professional career as an actor, appearing in 1965 with Howard Keel in Lerner and Loewe's "Camelot" in San Carlos and Anaheim; playing a role in the Civil War film, Journey to Shiloh (1968); and starting his long list of television appearances in shows, such as The Virginian (1962), Dragnet 1967 (1967) and Room 222 (1969). It was also at UCLA that he began composing and orchestrating music: incidental music for theatrical plays, and a musical, "The Short and Turbulent Reign of Roger Ginzburg", with book and lyrics by David Colloff, that won the 1967 BMI Varsity Musical Award as Best Musical.
Rubinstein made his Broadway acting debut in 1972, and received a Theater World Award, for creating the title role in the musical "Pippin", directed by Bob Fosse. In 1980, he won the Tony, Drama Desk, Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, and Drama-Logue Awards for his portrayal of "James Leeds" in Mark Medoff's "Children Of A Lesser God", directed by Gordon Davidson. Other Broadway appearances were in Neil Simon's "Fools", and David Rabe's "Hurlyburly", both directed by Mike Nichols; Herman Wouk's "The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial", which earned him another Drama Desk nomination; David Henry Hwang's "M. Butterfly"; "Getting Away With Murder", by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth, directed by Jack O'Brien, and the musical "Ragtime", directed by Frank Galati. In 2014, he joined the Broadway cast of the hit revival of "Pippin," directed by Diane Paulus, this time playing Pippin's father, Charlemagne. He repeated this role on the national tour throughout the United States, Japan, and Europe in 2014–2016. In 2017 he originated the role of Grandpa Joe in the Broadway musical, "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," directed by Jack O'Brien. In 1987, he made his off-Broadway debut at the Roundabout Theater as "Guildenstern" in Tom Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead", with Stephen Lang and John Wood, and subsequently performed in "Urban Blight" and "Cabaret Verboten". In 2005, he received the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Lead Actor in a Play, as well as nominations for both the Outer Critics' and Drama League Awards, for his portrayal of "George Simon" in Elmer Rice's "Counselor-at-Law", directed by Dan Wackerman, at the Pecadillo Theatre.
His appearances in regional theaters include the musicals "Camelot" (at various times as "Tom of Warwick", "Mordred" and "King Arthur") and "South Pacific"; the role of "Billy" in David Rabe's "Streamers", "Ariel" in "The Tempest", "Marchbanks" in Shaw's "Candida", both Sergius and Bluntschli (alternating nights with Richard Thomas) in Shaw's "Arms And The Man", several roles in Arnold Weinstein's "Metamorphoses", directed by Paul Sills at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, "Sight Unseen" at L.A.'s Odyssey Theatre, "The Torch-Bearers" and "Our Town" at the Williamstown Theater Festival, Arthur Miller's "Broken Glass" at Monterey Peninsula College, and Warren Smith in "On A Clear Day You Can See Forever" (in a 160-city National Tour). In 1985 He starred in "Merrily We Roll Along" at the La Jolla Playhouse, in a version newly re-written by Stephen Sondheim and George Furth, directed by James Lapine. He was the original Andrew Ladd III in A.R. Gurney's "Love Letters" at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, opened the play in New York off-Broadway, and later performed it on Broadway, in San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles and Washington D.C. He created the role of Molina in "Kiss Of The Spider Woman", the musical by Terrence McNally, John Kander, and Fred Ebb, directed by Harold Prince, and the role of Kenneth Hoyle in Jon Robin Baitz's "Three Hotels". In 1997, he played Tateh in the American premiere run of the musical "Ragtime", by Terrence McNally, Stephen Flaherty, and Lynn Ahrens, directed by Frank Galati, at the Shubert Theater in Los Angeles, receiving both an L. A. Drama Critics Circle nomination and a Drama-Logue Award as Best Actor in a Musical, and continued in the show both in Vancouver and on Broadway. He appeared opposite Donald Sutherland in Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt's "Enigmatic Variations" at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto, and at the Savoy Theatre in London's West End; played the Wizard of Oz in the hit musical "Wicked", by Winnie Holzman and Stephen Schwartz, directed by Joe Mantello, at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles for 18 months; and starred with John Schuck and Ken Page in the world premiere of a musical version of "Grumpy Old Men" in Winnipeg at the Manitoba Theatre Centre.
In 2011, Rubinstein provided commentary for the online web-casting of the XIVth International Tchaikovsky Competition, a classical music competition held in Moscow. He teaches courses in musical theater audition and acting for the camera, and directs the annual spring musical, at the University of Southern California.
He is married to Bonnie Burgess, and has five children: Jessica, Michael (the actor Michael Weston), Peter, Jacob, and Max.