Three-time Tony Award nominee Rebecca Luker, one of Broadway’s signature sopranos, sings the Golden Age of Broadway and more Saturday, Feb. 24 at the Loft Theatre as a benefit fundraiser for the Human Race Theatre Company.
Sponsored by the Musical Theatre Initiative at Wright State University, the Race’s residency partner, the eclectic concert interweaves classics of the American Songbook written by Golden Age legends such as Jerome Kern, Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim, and Rodgers and Hammerstein with modern tunes from today’s songwriters including Joseph Thalken, Luker’s accompanist and composer of the musicals “Was” and “Harold and Maude” which both received Midwest premieres at the Human Race.
“We are thrilled to continue our tradition of bringing the ‘Best of Broadway’ to Dayton,” said Human Race Artistic Director Kevin Moore. “Rebecca Luker has thrilled me numerous times on the Broadway stage, and what an honor to have her perform for our Loft audiences. This concert/fundraiser helps to support a variety of special projects at the Human Race, making education and community engagement possible. Plus, we are able to collaborate with Joe Deer at Wright State University in providing a master class with Ms. Luker and Mr. Thalken for the musical theatre students.”
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“The concert will be a wonderful mix of old and new songs that’ll make you laugh and make you cry,” said Luker, 56, who grew up admiring musical theatre while raised singing church hymns in her native Birmingham, Alabama. “I’ve always believed one of my purposes in life is to sing and interpret this kind of music. It just speaks to me. The level of writing astounds me. The Golden Age really produced brilliant music from Jerome Kern, George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and many others. But it’s also true that contemporary composers, such as my accompanist Joe Thalken, are carrying on the tradition, the sensibility, of Kern, Gershwin, Cole Porter and others. They’re bringing the style of classical and contemporary together in their own special way and it’s so exciting. But I hope the audience comes away from the concert having felt as if they’ve had a journey through our wonderful musical theatre history from way back when until today. I want the audience to have a completely satisfying experience.”
In addition to receiving Tony nominations for her luminous portrayals of Magnolia in “Show Boat,” Marian Paroo in “The Music Man” and Winifred Banks in “Mary Poppins,” Luker says she is proud to have been given opportunities that notably stretched and challenged her beyond the expected. In particular, she ranks her portrayals of Claudia in “Nine,” the Fairy Godmother in “Cinderella” and Helen Bechdel in “Fun Home” among her fondest and most challenging performances.
“I often enjoy bringing a bit of myself to any role that I do,” she remarked. “When I did ‘Nine,’ I had to speak Italian and be someone I’m completely not, which I love doing. When I was the Fairy Godmother in ‘Cinderella,’ I was moving into the point of my career when I was doing more character roles and that was so much fun. ‘Fun Home’ was a great experience because it was a contemporary musical, which I rarely do, and I loved the score as well. I had the time of my life doing ‘Fun Home.’ But there are still roles I haven’t done that I would love to do. I still haven’t played Anna in ‘The King and I’ and I would love to do plays, particularly Shakespeare. It would also be great to do operas or operettas.”
Luker, who resides in New York City with her husband, six-time Tony nominee Danny Burstein, is specifically looking forward to spending time encouraging and advising WSU’s musical theatre students. She hopes her words of wisdom will resonate.
“It’s important to have as many acting experiences as you can in order for you to decide which direction you ultimately want to go,” she said. “Only you know what you can do with your talent. I’ll also help the students communicate a song. It sounds easy but it’s hard. It’s important to make songs personal, to believe it with all your heart. And in doing so, the audience is going to believe it with all their heart. It’s always important to let your authentic self shine through.”