Rebecca Luker Dies: Tony-Nominated Star Of ‘Show Boat’, ‘The Music Man’ Was 59; Broadway Mourns “Beyond Heartbreaking” Loss
Rebecca Luker, a three-time Tony Award nominee and one of Broadway's most famous and beloved music actresses, died today in a New York hospital after nearly a year of battling ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease. She was 59 years old.
Her death was confirmed in the New York Times by her agent Sarah Fargo. Luker was married to Broadway actor Danny Burstein (Moulin Rouge!).
The actress announced in February that she was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and tweeted, “Hi friends. I have some difficult news. I was diagnosed with ALS late last year. I have the best medical care and support in the world. My dear husband Danny was an angel. I will get well. In the meantime we fight and move on. Keep us on your mind. "
Luker's ALS announcement was supported by colleagues and fans alike - from Betty Buckley and Anika Noni Rose to LaChanze, Ben Stiller and Bebe Neuwirth.
The response from Broadway was even greater today. "One of the most glorious voices and the sweetest of souls," tweeted Audra McDonald. (See more responses below.)
Originally from Birmingham, AL, Luker made her Broadway debut as original actress on The Phantom of the Opera in 1988 and later starred as Christine from Sarah Brightman.
In 1991 Luker played with Mandy Patinkin, Daisy Eagan and John Cameron Mitchell in the musical adaptation of The Secret Garden by Marsha Norman-Lucy Simon. In 1994 she starred as Magnolia in a revival of Show Boat and received her first Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Musical
Luke's bell soprano, of course, fitted in with her next role as Maria in the 1998 revival of The Sound of Music. This success was followed two years later by her second Tony nominated performance in The Music Man, in which she played Marian in front of Craig Bierko's Harold Hill.
In 2003 she appeared in Nine and in 2006 received her third Tony nomination for leading actress for her appearance as Winifred Banks in Disney's Mary Poppins. In 2013 and 2016 she headed the replacement cast in Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella and Fun Home.
Off Broadway roles included the 1997 Encores! Production of The Boys From Syracuse, The Vagina Monologues (1999), Roundabout's Death Takes a Holiday in 2011 and a return to Encores that same year! for Where's Charley? Regional credits include Passion, Footloose, and Sweeney Todd.
In addition to her stage credits, Luker appeared on television in Boardwalk Empire, The Good Wife, Law & Order: SVU, Bull, and NCIS: New Orleans, and in the 2012 film Not Fade Away.
Luker, who was married to actor Gregory Jbara in 1995-97, is survived by Burstein and step-sons Zachary and Alexander.
The Broadway community today expressed their grief:
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