I was disappointed.
In 1988, I listened to the original cast recording of Phantom of the Opera over and over and over. And with each “repeat all” I fell more in love with the show, the characters and the voices of the actors I heard on that CD.
And then, after eight months of waiting, we got tickets to see the musical live on Broadway.
It would be my first Broadway musical.
I didn’t know what to expect. But I remember saying, “I can’t wait to see those actors from the CD that I’ve been listening to!”
I had no idea how Broadway worked. I had no idea that the original cast had long since left by the time I pulled up to the Majestic Theater.
So when I opened my playbill and saw the woman playing Christine was someone name . . . Rebecca Luker . . . well, I was disappointed.
It was a voice unlike anything I had ever heard. And I wasn’t hearing it on a CD. Or on TV. It was live. Granted, that voice was a little far away, because I was in the 2nd to last row in the balcony . . . but I couldn’t take my plastic opera glasses off her.
I read her bio over and over (God how I wish I had Google back then), wondering who she was . . . and knew I had to see her perform again.
I saved my Domino’s pizza delivery money for the next few months, earning enough for “scalper seats” to go back to see Phantom . . . praying this time NOT for the original cast . . . but that Ms. Luker would still be there.
Then I started working in the business. My first job on Broadway was Hal Prince’s Show Boat. Unfortunately, my stint in the show started just after she finished her term as Magnolia, so our interactions were few. But I remember every one.
I saw her in everything. Fanboying from a far. Meeting her at a few events. And then finally, just a couple of years ago, when she was cast in a workshop I was involved in, I was able to gush. And I’ll tell you what I told her.
Rebecca Luker is one of the most glorious leading ladies Broadway has ever, ever, EVER had . . . and ever will have.
And we lost her, in this year that won’t quit, at the tender age of 59.
She took my gushing that day like she had never heard it before. Gave me a hug. We talked about our mutual friends and how it was surprising we hadn’t worked together before.
And I walked away from the encounter like I did after seeing her in Phantom in 1989. Because she was as much of a star offstage as on.
To her family, especially her husband Danny, who is one of the most inspiring humans I’ve ever met: you’re all in my prayers. Losing her is one of those things that make you look up at the sky and say, “Really?!?! Why?”
If you don’t know who Rebecca Luker is . . . well . . . lucky you, we have Google today.
But I’ll post the video from The Secret Garden to get you started. In this musical, she plays a woman . . . who her husband and the world lost too soon.