Broadway star Luker, who has played three major M's of the soprano musical theatre repertoire on Broadway — Maria in The Sound of Music, Magnolia in Show Boat and Marian in The Music Man — reinvents herself on the new disc, a blend of folk, theatre and pop songs. It was released March 16 from PS Classics, the independent label dedicated to the heritage of Broadway and classic American pop.
The new 14-track disc dips into material fans of Luker aren't used to from the actress: Guitar-flecked songs by Joni Mitchell, Janis Ian, Carly Simon, Billy Joel, Amanda McBroom, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. A handful of theatre songs by the disc's producer and musical director, Christopher McGovern, surface here as well, as does a duet of "Wick" with Alison Fraser, Luker's castmate from The Secret Garden.
"Rebecca's music director and producer, Christopher McGovern, wrote us...and described the project, and we were immediately interested," PS Classics co-founder Philip Chaffin previously told Playbill On-Line. "We said, 'Burn us a copy when there's something you'd like us to hear,' and when he did...we loved what we heard. It takes its cue from the folk songs and pop songs that Rebecca grew up listening to in the '70s — Carly Simon and Joni Mitchell and Janis Ian — and then it moves in all kinds of wonderful directions from there. For so many of us in our late 30's and 40's, those songs have deep personal connections and memories for us, and you could hear Rebecca's own deep feelings about those songs in her performances."
The tracks include "River" (by Joni Mitchell), "Getting Over You" (Janis Ian), "Chelsea Morning" (Joni Mitchell), "Boys in the Trees" (Carly Simon), "Cherish the Child" (Christopher McGovern and Amy Powers, cut from their musical, Lizzie Borden), "You're My Home" (Billy Joel), "Ophelia" (Amanda McBroom, from the musical, Will's Women), "Old Dog Tray" (Stephen Foster), "Fine" (Bill Whitefield and Bill Castellino, from the musical, Crash Club), "Morningtimes" (Christopher McGovern), "Wick" (Lucy Simon and Marsha Norman, from the musical, The Secret Garden, with special guest Alison Fraser), "Coming Apart" (Rusty Magee), "Four Green Fields" (Thomas Makem) and "She's Leaving Home" (John Lennon and Paul McCartney). The disc is sweetened with drums, cello, reeds, piano, guitar and violin.
"As a kid, I was deeply into rock and folk music," Luker admits in liner notes. "That seemed at odds with my Birmingham, Alabama, surroundings. I was inundated with church hymns, marching bands, choral music, my parents' Big Band collection, and, of course, disco."
(Fans will appreciate there is no attempt at disco on the new album.)
For more information about "Leaving Home" visit PS Classics at www.psclassics.com. The label announced March 15 it would release the cast album the current Broadway revival of Fiddler on the Roof by early summer.
McGovern and Luker met in 1997 doing a workshop of The Doctor's Wife, a musical version of "Madame Bovary."
Singing pop isn't such a stretch for Luker. Just because she's known for classic musical theatre roles doesn't mean she doesn't listen to pop songs on the radio. In a summer 2000 interview with Playbill On-Line, the actress said, "I am so not a musical theatre person. I never put on a musical [record at home]. I love it, but I do it so much I don't want to listen to it when I go home. I love rock music, and jazz. I love the '70s stuff that I grew up with. I grew up listening to Karla Bonoff. I like mostly that '70s rock. I love Carlos Santana, too."
She later admitted that every once in a while she puts on The Secret Garden, a show she loved being in on Broadway, and Sweeney Todd, one of her first professional regional gigs.
In summer 2002, Luker played Clara for the Kennedy Center staging of Passion, for the Sondheim Celebration.
To view Playbill On-Line's 2000 Brief Encounter Q&A with Luker, when she starred in Broadway's The Music Man, Click Here.