Rebecca Luker, who is opening the seventh season of Broadway Voices in Garner, has received three Tony nominations. Her husband, Danny Burstein, has received six nominations, including four in the last five years.
They display the nine nominations and posters from their various Broadway shows in the same room where they keep the cat litter box.
“In a New York apartment, you use every inch of space,” said Luker, who lives in the same apartment building where famed movie director Cecil B. DeMille and later President Barack Obama lived. (It made for some conversation after a White House performance.)
The juxtaposition of awards, history and real life isn’t lost on Luker. Broadway actors can go from unabashed praise to unemployment without the courtesy of a farewell bow.
“They tell me that Danny is in his own category now for most nominations without a win,” Luker said with a lightness in her voice. “But receiving a Tony nomination is an incredible achievement because your peers select you. It is one of the greatest nights of your life.
“It is, as they say, ‘so nice to be invited to the party.’”
Luker, a native of Helena, Ala, is known for playing iconic roles.
She gained quick success on Broadway, starring in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera as Christine. She quickly transitioned to Lily in The Secret Garden. She got her first Tony nomination as Magnolia in Showboat, the Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein musical that earned four Tonys and eight nominations.
“Rebecca is a very truthful actor,” said Mark Jacoby, her Gaylord Ravenal in Showboat. “By that I mean that she doesn’t play the character, she inhabits the character. She is not artificial at all.
“And what a great singer. I have not heard another voice like hers on Broadway in my lifetime.”
Luker followed Showboat by becoming Maria in The Sound of Music then earned another Tony nomination as Marian the librarian in The Music Man.
She was moving from one starring role to the next before suddenly the phone stopped ringing. She stayed busy with recordings, television and film work, and voiceovers, but the next big Broadway role was elusive.
“I just wasn’t getting the opportunities on Broadway,” she said. “It is a hard business. I chose to be selective about what roles I considered and I was fortunate that I didn’t have to jump at every offer. I didn’t choose to go into the ensemble. Maybe they forgot about me a little bit, but it is tough when a woman gets into her 40s and 50s. There just weren’t many opportunities.”
Luker returned to Broadway in 2006 when she was cast as Mrs. Winifred Banks in the acclaimed stage version of Mary Poppins. She picked up her third Tony nomination. She stayed in the role for three and a half years, worrying that she was staying too long, but the time flew by.
“You worry about getting the job, then you worry about not being able to get another one if you stay in this one too long,” she said. “It’s a crazy business.”
Throughout the process she has maintained her reputation for being among the nicest of Broadway stars.
“She is a wonderful, wonderful colleague,” Jacoby said. “Everyone she meets loves her. To be in a show with her is a gift.”
She has kept busy since and left the Broadway company of Fun House about four months ago. She is making the quick hop to Garner for the concert in the historic 476-seat theater. “Such a great size,” she said. “Big enough, but everyone is close.”
She and musical director Joe Thalken will present A Broadway Love Story. It has a blend of the expected and the unexpected. There will be some songs as famous as “The Hills Are Alive,” some Phantom, some Showboat.
She will have a little Jerome Kern section, including some from her Kern CD, I Got Love. It is one of her four solo CDs.
But she promises some surprises. They include songs written by Thalken, an award-winning composer and teacher at Yale University. He was the musical director for Hugh Panaro, Luker’s Phantom, when he sang at Broadway Voices in January.
“I love the Broadway classics,” she said. “But I like the new stuff, too. I want to share that with the audience.”
Tim Stevens: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rebecca Luker _ Broadway Voices
What: A concert by the three-time Tony nominee
When: Saturday, Nov. 12, 7:30
Where: Garner Performing Arts Center, 742 W. Garner Road, Garner
Tickets: $35. GarnerPerformingArtsCenter.com or 919-661-4602. Also at the theater and the Garner Chamber of Commerce.