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Rebecca Luker, Star of ‘Show Boat,’ ‘The Music Man’ and ‘Mary Poppins’ on Broadway, Dies at 59


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Rebecca Luker, the enchanting Broadway actress and singer who received Tony nominations for her performances in revivals of Show Boat, The Music Man and Mary Poppins, has died. She was 59.

According to The New York Times, Luker died Wednesday in a Manhattan hospital after announcing in February that she had been diagnosed with ALS late last year. Her death was confirmed by her agent, Sarah Fargo.

Survivors include her second husband, Danny Burstein, like his wife a beloved Broadway performer. The seven-time Tony nominee wrote two columns for THR this year about his recovery from COVID-19 and how Luker helped him get past the virus.

An operatic soprano, Luker portrayed Magnolia, the daughter who marries a sleazy riverboat gambler, in Show Boat, which opened on Broadway in 1994; the librarian Marian in The Music Man, which began in 2001; and Winifred Banks in Mary Poppins. She starred in that one from 2006-10.

Luker also appeared on the big screen in writer-director David Chase’s Not Fade Away (2012) and on television in such series as Boardwalk Empire, Elementary and NCIS: New Orleans.

One of four children, Rebecca Joan Luker was born on April 17, 1961, in Birmingham, Alabama. She graduated from the University of Montevallo in 1984 after spending time with the Michigan Opera Theater, then made her Broadway debut in 1989 stepping in for Sarah Brightman as the chorus girl Christine in a revival of The Phantom of the Opera.

She also appeared on the Great White Way in the musicals The Secret Garden in 1991-93, The Sound of Music (as Maria) in 1998-99, Nine in 2003, Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella (as the fairy godmother Marie) in 2013 and Fun Home in 2015-16.

She married Burstein in 2000. Survivors also include her stepsons, Zachary and Alexander.

“She is strong but searching for answers as she sees her body failing her,” Burstein wrote about his wife in his August THR piece. “And yet she has hope. I don’t know what to feel. I’ve always been the more pragmatic one. She has always been so sure. I can’t deny her hope. I have some, too. But I have to keep preparing for the worst. And I hate that I am preparing for the worst. But we are hoping our hopes come true.”

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