Luker captures audience: University of Montevallo grad earns third Tony nod

&8220;Being Mrs. Banks should be an easy role. And yet it&8217;s one which I don&8217;t seem too good at on the whole. Being Mrs. Banks, what does that entail? Facing tests of character I always seem to fail,&8221;

&045;&045; Mrs. Banks

The song &8220;Being Mrs. Banks&8221; in the musical Mary Poppins implys the character is complex, but actress Rebecca Luker has mastered its portrayal.

A Helena native, Luker grabbed a Tony nomination for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Mrs. Banks &045;&045; a feat which does not surprise her former University of Montevallo professors.

Dr. Ben Middaugh was Luker&8217;s vocal teacher at UM.

&8220;I had a feeling right away she would be very talented and probably end up in New York,&8221; Middaugh said. &8220;It&8217;s been quite a delight to see her accomplish that.&8221;

Luker began her career by stealing the stage at the UM and landing her first collegiate role as Marian in The Music Man and went on to also capture the lead in Oklahoma. Middaugh said the five years Luker spent on her undergraduate career paid off in a thick resume.

While at UM, Luker performed with what used to be the Town and Gown theatre in Birmingham and sang in productions of A Little Night Music and Sweeny Todd at the Michigan Opera Theatre. It was through these productions Middaugh said Luker got connected with a manager. Luker graduated in 1984 and immediately moved to New York.

&8220;She had a lot of experience by the time she graduated,&8221; Middaugh said. &8220;One of the reasons why she didn&8217;t have to go through the long road of beating the pavement.&8221;

The Broadway actress&8217;s big break came with a chance to move up from being an understudy to singing in the role of Christine in The Phantom of the Opera.

This isn&8217;t Luker&8217;s first experience as a nominee. She is nominated this time for Best Featured Actress in a musical. She has also been nominated for roles in The Music Man and Show Boat.

Mary Poppins was nominated for a total of seven Tony awards including Best Musical, Best Performance by a leading actor and Best Choreography, Scenic Design, Costume Design and

Lighting for a musical.

The 61st Annual Tony Awards will air June 10 at 7 p.m. on CBS. Cast members are expected to perform.