Broadway legend and three times Tony Awards nominee Rebecca Luker, most memorable for her iconic roles in ‘The Secret Garden’ and ‘The Music Man’, has died at age 59. Here’s what we know about her cause of death.
Luker, who debuted on stage as part of the original cast of ‘The Phantom of the Opera’, lost a long-fought battle to Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). She was reportedly diagnosed last year with the neurodegenerative disease. Her demise was confirmed by her agent, Sarah Fargo.
Luker opened up about her health this year in June where she shared, “I was diagnosed last November in 2019. I knew something was wrong before that, but until it was officially diagnosed you’re sort of in denial.” She noted, “This disease is diagnosed through a process of elimination. There’s no blood test for ALS… it’s bizarre. But when all else is ruled out, then they say you have ALS.”
Luker spent her career mostly in legendary Broadway roles which got her three Tony Awards nominations — the first of which came with ‘Show Boat’ (1994), where Luker was seen portraying Magnolia, the captain’s innocent teenage daughter whose life is toppled by a bad marriage to a riverboat gambler.
The second nod to Tony was evident after ‘The Music Man’ (2000) where she brought life to the character of a City girl, Marian, a librarian by profession who falls for a mysterious man. The third Tony nomination came with Luker’s ‘Mary Poppins’ performance in 2007. She was also praised for her role in a Broadway revival of “The Sound of Music” in 1998.
Even after a highly successful career in musicals, Luker didn’t identify herself as a musical person. She said in an interview, “I am so not a musical theater person,” Playbill published in 2003. “I love rock music and jazz. I love the ’70s stuff I grew up with.”
Her Broadway peers have taken to Twitter to mourn the loss of a legend. Actress Bernadette Peters wrote “Rebecca Luker was one of the most beautiful voices on Broadway and a lovely person, adding, “We are all devastated for Danny and for ourselves… we will never get to witness her talents on stage again.”
HBO’s ‘Six Feet Under’ star Steven Pasquale shared, “Theater kids, If you haven’t yet, immediately bathe in the glory of that original Broadway cast recording of ‘The Secret Garden’ with Rebecca Luker as Lily. In a belty, riffy world, she reminds us of what great pure singing is.”
Tony Award-winner Jenna Ushkowitz as a producer for the Broadway musical ‘Once on This Island’ wrote, “The Broadway community mourns today for Rebecca Luker. I didn’t know her personally but she greatly impacted so many lives. Love and light to her dear family and friends.”
Rebecca Luker was one of the most beautiful voices on Broadway and a lovely person ,,We are all devastated for Danny and for ourselves,,we will never get to witness her talents on stage again 💔💔💔💔RIP Dear Dear Girl🕊 pic.twitter.com/6qSKhEZZ2c
— Bernadette Peters (@OfficialBPeters) December 23, 2020
If you haven’t yet, immediately bathe in the glory of that original Broadway cast recording of The Secret Garden with Rebecca Luker as Lily.
In a belty, riffy world, she reminds us of what great pure singing is.
— steven pasquale (@StevePasquale) December 23, 2020
The Broadway community mourns today for Rebecca Luker. I didn’t know her personally but she greatly impacted so many lives. Love and light to her dear family and friends. ✨
— Jenna Ushkowitz (@JennaUshkowitz) December 23, 2020
Rebecca Luker is survived by actor husband Danny Burstein and two stepsons Zachary and Alexander.