Rebecca Luker Moves Audiences in Broadway's Fun Home

In the final moments of the curtain call following Rebecca Luker’s first performance as Helen in Fun Home, the cast moves to embrace her—one by one—until they form a sort of human cocoon around the slender blonde who smiles warmly at the spontaneous flow of affection. 

rebecca luker fun home

Photo: Joan Marcus

Having interviewed and chatted with Luker a number of times over the years, this warm, welcoming gesture is in keeping with her impact on others...both as a gracious and giving actor and a genuinely nice person. Yet by stepping into playwright Lisa Kron’s emotional minefield of a musical in the role of a working mother married to a mercurial gay man, Luker is decidedly leaving her “warm and fuzzy” comfort zone behind.

“I hardly ever get to play a character like this...contemporary and flawed,” says Luker, who built up her Broadway street cred playing period ingénues in revivals of The Sound of Music, Show Boat, and The Music Man. “I’m figuring out who Helen is as I go along—and fighting the impulse to be nice all the time. She has to protect herself... she has to be arch.”

Luker joined the cast of 2015’s Tony-winning musical in early April as a temporary replacement for Tony nominee Judy Kuhn, whose knee surgery is keeping her out of the show until May 22nd. Friends who have performed several concerts together, Kuhn and Luker’s most prominent pairing was in the 2002 Kennedy Center production of Passion, alongside Michael Cerveris, who happens to play Helen’s husband Bruce in Fun Home—a role that landed him a Tony last June.

“Both Michael and Judy have been so generous in easing me into the show which means a great deal to me, especially as I only had nine days of rehearsal and had never worked with the orchestra, which is pretty normal for ‘put-ins,’ but still...,” notes Luker, who managed to keep up by working on her own beforehand. “And it’s not, as they say, ‘like hopping on a moving train’—it’s more like having a moving train coming right at you!”

Being a theatregoer caught up in the storyline based on artist Alison Bechdel’s life—as a child growing up in a funeral home; as a young lesbian coming into her own; as an adult looking back on her family and the powerful tragedy that flashed behind her—there was never a hint that Luker was anything but perfect in a complex role that crescendos in her defining number “Days and Days.”

“It’s satisfying in that it marks her journey in the show. When she exits, it really hits you,” she says.

Even though Luker’s husband, actor Danny Burstein, is starring as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof and won’t be able to see a full production of Fun Home, he did catch one of his wife’s final rehearsals and praised the way the creators managed to bring so many diverse characters together without judgment. And, like the hundreds of theatregoers who experience Fun Home every performance, he was visibly moved.

fun home in the round

Photo: Joan Marcus

Fun Home is playing at the Circle in the Square Theatre, 1622 Broadway, btw. 50th & 51st Sts. For reservations call 212-239-6200 or visit

About the Author

City Guide Theatre Editor Griffin Miller moved to New York to pursue an acting/writing career in the 1980s after graduating magna cum laude from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Since then, she has written for The New York Times, For the Bride, Hotels, and a number of other publications, mostly in the areas of travel and performance arts. An active member of The New York Travel Writers Association, she is also a playwright and award-winning collage artist. In addition, she sits on the board of The Lewis Carroll Society of North America. Griffin is married to Richard Sandomir, a reporter for The New York Times.

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