“You just really have to jump in with both feet, and I trust that eventually in a couple of weeks, I’ll feel more at home,” says Rebecca Luker. “I already feel at home.”
The Fun Home, that is. Luker stepped in beginning April 5 for her friend Judy Kuhn, who was Tony-nominated for her performance as Helen Bechdel and is on a leave of absence from the show to undergo hip surgery. She willed her spend at the Fun Home into existence… sort of.
“I didn’t see [the show] long before I auditioned, weirdly,” she explains. “I had put it off and put it off. Judy is a good friend of mine, and I could just hit myself that I never saw it at The Public. So one day, I just went, ‘I’m going to go see this.’ I took a girlfriend, and then boom! I got this audition. It was very strange. It was almost like I had a psychic moment or something. Back in December I saw it, and I was so overwhelmed. Every time I’ve seen it since—and I’ve seen it about six times since then—I’m moved more every time. I just blubber at the end of the show, and I told Judy, ‘I don’t know how I’m going to get through this show without doing that,’ so that’s been a challenge.”
Luker’s spending quite a lot of time at Circle in the Square as part of her transition into the show—seeing Fun Home as much as possible to learn her track and rehearsing there during the day on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Unlike most rehearsals that take place at studio space in Manhattan, the creatives prepare her at the theatre to get used to working in the round and entering from the correct “vom,” short for vomitorium—a corridor built beneath or behind the seats of a theatre designed to facilitate the movement of large numbers of people. (Circle in the Square is the only Broadway theatre with a vomitorium.)
“I sort of compare it to jumping on a moving train, and that’s exactly what it is,” she says. “But, you know, I prepared a lot on my own before rehearsal started in mid-March, so I’ve been working on it a little while. I feel good…! Until I do it before an audience, I won’t really feel that comfortable. We’ll see. I’m sure it’s going to be fine.
“This is my third one, I realize. I replaced in Nine and Cinderella, and it is nerve-wracking. You don’t get nearly the amount of rehearsal or preparation that everybody else gets, but I like it, too. I like the challenge of it. I really do. Trying to fit in while trying to make your own mark on the part, as well, is challenging and interesting, and I’m trying to do that, and everybody is letting me… I feel a big responsibility for being in this wonderful show and wanting to rise to the occasion and wanting to keep it up to the level that it has been.”
Luker has had about two weeks (a process normally spread out among six when rehearsing a new Broadway show) to become Helen, the matriarch of the Bechdel family whose marriage is slowly falling apart before audience’s eyes. Luckily, she’s previously worked with director Sam Gold, choreographer Danny Mefford and even the show’s young star Gabriella Pizzolo (whom she played opposite a few months ago in the starry benefit staging of The Secret Garden).
“You always feel that there’s something missing because you just have not had the time. You have not been with all the other actors. You haven’t done weeks and weeks of around-the-table work and research and just being with each other,” she says. “I’m listening very carefully and just trying to fit in.”
Getting put in, she says, “You make little mistakes, but they’re not huge mistakes, and you learn to correct them quickly, but that’s just part of it when you get put in a show. There’s just no way you’re going to be perfect right away, and you just have to accept that and just work hard to keep making it consistent, keep making it better.”