Broadway star heads home to perform

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Rebecca Luker’s mother knew from the moment her daughter began singing in the church choir that she was special. But Martha Hales could have never guessed early on just how far Rebecca’s singing would take her.

Luker has come a long way since her days of singing in the First Baptist Church of Alabaster’s choir on Sundays, climbing to the top of the Broadway musical scene.

The Helena native has performed in numerous shows in New York, including &uot;The Phantom of the Opera&uot; and

&uot;The Sound of Music&uot; and has also led a successful musical career off Broadway with performances at the Kennedy Center and at the historic Lincoln Center.

Luker’s accolades are numerous and include multiple nominations for a Tony Award, which stands as musical theater’s version of the Academy Awards.

After attending the University of Montevallo where she had the leading role in every production she participated in, Luker headed to New York City, confident in her abilities as a performer.

&uot;From the moment I first heard a crowd cheering I knew, ‘This is it, this is what I’m supposed to be doing,’&uot; Luker says.

&uot;I always took for granted the fact that I could sing,&uot; she says. &uot;And I knew from the beginning that this is what I wanted to do with my life.&uot;

Luker and her family were not the only ones to realize her talent early on.

&uot;Most everybody that heard her sing knew right away that she had talent,&uot; Hales says.

It didn’t take long for Broadway to notice Luker either.

Less than a year after joining the ensemble cast of &uot;Phantom,&uot; she was given the lead role of Christine in the production.

Since then, she has become one of the most highly acclaimed musical stars in the nation.

Luker’s father died in 1984 and soon after, she headed to New York to chase her dream. But her mother took it hard at first, losing both her husband and daughter in such a short time.

&uot;It was scary at first,&uot; Hales says. &uot;To lose her father and then to have her go to New York so soon afterward, I had to pray a lot.&uot;

Luker has performed in six Broadway shows and numerous off-Broadway productions during her career, creating a musical portfolio for herself that remains unmatched by any other performer in Broadway history.

She currently lives in an apartment in Manhattan with her husband, Danny Burnstein, and her stepsons, Alex and Zach. The two met while working on the musical, &uot;Time and Again&uot; in 1996 and married four years later.

Luker says her hefty work schedule keeps her tied up for most of the year; but this weekend she will be in Birmingham for a three-night performance of &uot;Back Home Again,&uot; in which she will perform a variety of songs that span her Broadway career, along with some original songs that she recently released on an album. Luker will perform Thursday through

Saturday at the Virgina-Samford Theatre in Birmingham, and producer Stan Nelson hopes people will take advantage of the opportunity to hear her sing.

&uot;There is no bigger name on Broadway,&uot; Nelson said. &uot;We wanted Rebecca to be able to share her talent with the people from her hometown.&uot;

The performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. each evening, and tickets range from $58 to $75. For information about Luker’s performances in Birmingham, call 251-1206