Broadway favorite Rebecca Luker, a Tony nominee for her performances in Mary Poppins, The Music Man and the Harold Prince-directed revival of Show Boat, is currently playing a limited engagement in the Tony-winning musical Fun Home at Broadway's Circle in the Square Theatre. The gifted soprano has stepped into the role of Helen Bechdel while four-time Tony nominee Judy Kuhn undergoes hip surgery. I recently asked Luker, whose Broadway credits also include Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella, Nine, The Sound of Music, The Secret Garden and The Phantom of the Opera, to pen a list of her most memorable nights onstage. Her choices and commentary follow.
Back in Birmingham, Alabama, while I was in college, I was in the middle of a community theatre production of The Fantasticks when my skirt fell off and puddled around my ankles. This was during my big solo. I just kicked it away and kept singing. Needless to say, it got the biggest laugh of the night!
Rebecca Luker and husband Danny Burstein at the Fiddler opening, with no wardrobe malfunction.
During my first Broadway show, The Phantom of the Opera, Davis Gaines, who had just joined the company as my love interest, Raoul, abandoned me during our big love duet “All I Ask of You.” He just walked off and never came back. I basically sang the song alone while gazing longingly (or with terror in my eyes) at the wings, willing him to come back. I found out later that he got an attack of food poisoning and had to throw up in a bucket. Good times.
Rebecca Luker discusses her time in The Phantom of the Opera.
The very first time I went on as Christine in Phantom. Michael Crawford was my Phantom, and I'll never forget it. It was an out-of-body experience. He was so kind, though, and I‘ll never forget that.
Schmoozing with President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalind Carter after a performance of The Music Man. What amazing people they are! It was during the drawn-out presidential election between Gore and Bush, and I was dying to talk to him about it. I never got the chance, but we talked about a lot of other stuff. We have being Southern in common, don’t you know.
Luker performs “Good Night My Someone” from The Music Man.
Performing at the Kennedy Center Honors, first for Julie Andrews in 2001 and then for Barbara Cook in 2011. It’s difficult to describe how I felt as the curtain went up just before I had to sing each time. Everyone in the world is in the audience (including, of course, the President and First Lady). It’s terrifying at first, and then it was such a thrill. Once I told myself that I was just there for the Honoree, it was fun.
Luker sings “The Sound of Music” at the Kennedy Center Honors tribute to Julie Andrews.
Well, that’s all for now. Happy diva-watching! E-mail questions or comments to [email protected].
Senior editor Andrew Gans also pens the weekly Their Favorite Things.