The surprise early entry marks Burke's Broadway debut. In the 2002 Tony Award-winning show, Emmy Award nominated actress Burke plays Mrs. Meers, a failed diva who is running a women's hotel, from which she arranges the sale of residents to a white slaver. Title character Millie (Sutton Foster) is among the roomers.
Burke, best known for playing self-interested, opinionated Suzanne Sugarbaker on the hit series, "Designing Women," is expected to play Sept. 26-29 performances, leading to her turn Sept. 30, which is considered her opening night (press is invited to come a-calling after the Tuesday show, at a company party).
The Millie troupe has the unusual dark night of Thursday.
Since Tony Award winner Harriet Harris left the show Aug. 3, Terry Burrell and Candy Buckley have played Mrs. Meers, who dons Asian dragon-lady drag to conceal her shady past. Harris is now in the cast of TV's "It's All Relative," premiering Oct. 1.
Burke's other television credits include "Delta" and "Women of the House" (both produced by her own production company, Perseverance, Inc.), "DAG," "Filthy Rich," "First and Ten," as well as a recurring role on "Popular" and recent guest appearances on "Touched by an Angel," "Promised Land," "Any Day Now" and "Family Law." Her television film credits include "Going for Broke" and "Dangerous Child" (both for Lifetime Television), "Melanie Darrow" (also producer), "Maternal Instincts" (also executive producer) and "A Promise to Carolyn." Her feature film credits include "What Women Want," "Sordid Lives" and "Good Boy!" She is the author of "Delta Style: Eve Wasn't a Size Six and Neither Am I!," published by St. Martin's Press. After representing Florida in the Miss America Pageant and winning a talent scholarship, Burke attended a two-year study program at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts. Since 1989, she has been married to actor Gerald McRaney. The company also features Tony Award winner Sutton Foster as Millie Dillmount, Leslie Uggams as Muzzy Van Hossmere, Christian Borle as Jimmy Smith, Ben Davis as Mr. Trevor Graydon, Angela Christian as Dorothy Brown, David Rhee as Ching Ho, Francis Jue as Bun Foo and Anne L. Nathan as Miss Flannery, with Robert M. Armitage, Kevin Bernard, Megan Campbell, Paul Canaan, Jessica Dillan, David Eggers, Matt Farnsworth, Gregg Goodbrod, Jessica Grove, Shannon Hammons, Tripp Hanson, Amy Heggins, Leah Horowitz, Davis Kirby, Alisa Klein, Joni Michelle, Michelle O'Steen-Vivona, Linda Romoff, Emily Rozek, Joey Sorge, David Spangenthal, Kim Varhola, Matt Wall, Richard Feng Zhu.
Tickets range $55-$100 and can be purchased at (212) 307-4100, or in-person at the Marquis Theatre box office, 1535 Broadway at 46th St.