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Remembering Two Great Talents: Ann Reinking and Rebecca Luker

From Associated Press and other sources. Compiled and notated by Ellis Nassour

December 24, 2020: This is a year which could not have been sadder: more than 335,000 deaths from COVID-19. And now comes the disheartening news of the deaths of two giant, radiant, and very generous Broadway talents: actress and Tony-winning  choreographer Ann Reinking on December 12; and Tony-nominee and crystal-voiced Rebecca Luker on December 23. 

From Associated Press and other sources. Compiled and notated by Ellis Nassour

December 24, 2020: This is a year which could not have been sadder: more than 335,000 deaths from COVID-19. And now comes the disheartening news of the deaths of two giant, radiant, and very generous Broadway talents: actress and Tony-winning  choreographer Ann Reinking on December 12; and Tony-nominee and crystal-voiced Rebecca Luker on December 23. 

Tributes have poured in from the Broadway community in which both where held in such high regard.

Chita Rivera said it was “beyond words to hear of the sudden and untimely passing of my dear friend. The world has lost such a beautiful soul and talent. I loved sharing the stage with her whenever we could. Her spirit and razzle-dazzle will be with me forever.”  Bernadette Peters shared, “My heart is broken at the news of Ann’s passing.” 

Kristin Chenoweth, noting how kind and supportive Reinking was, called her “an inspiration to all in the Broadway community. May we remember her at her happiest: dancing. Rest in Peace, Ann.” 

Lin-Manuel Miranda praised Reinking, stating, “A singular talent has left us.” Tony Yazbeck called Reinking “An absolute inspiration.” Leslie Odom Jr. thanked Reinking for being a mentor, stating, “Ann honored the calling for real. RIP to a legend.” “Ann was one of the most mesmerizing people I’ve ever seen onstage, a singular genius,” noted comedian, actor, producer, and TV host Billy Eichner. Jason Alexander mourned Reinking, describing her as “pure joy — fun and funny and endlessly kind and talented. Heaven’s chorus line just got a star.”

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Tributes have been saluting Rebecca Luker, wife of actor Danny Burstein, for months as she battled ALS. Even as her health declined, she appeared in a recent fund-raiser for ALS research and closed the program singing from her wheelchair. 

Of her passing, Bernadette Peters wrote: “Rebecca was one of the most beautiful voices on Broadway, and such a lovely person. We are all devastated for Danny and for ourselves. We will never get to witness her talents onstage again, RIP, dear, dear girl.”

Audra McDonald was devastated at the news of Luker’s passing. “She was an angel on earch, one of the most glorious voices and the sweetest of souls.”

Laura Benanti called Luker, “Humble, loving, and kind, so much so that you would sometimes forget her otherworldly talent, that is until she would sing. Her golden voice would wrap you in peace. Rebecca was an angel on earth, and now in heaven.” 

Kristin Chenoweth notes that “My friend Rebecca was one of the main reasons I wanted to be a soprano. Her voice was soprano heaven … I know you are no longer in pain and already singing your heart out up there.” 

Michael Cerveris said, “There was no one more humble, more unexpectedly funny or more glorious when she sang than Rebecca.” Stephanie J. Block described Luker as “angel-faced and angel-spirited.” Of Luker, Steven Pasquale wrote: “such a great lady and the purist soprano of them all.” 

Matthew Bourne remembered Luker as “a delightful, warm, and magical performer with one of the best voices ever to grace Broadway. She has left us far too soon, but what glorious memories she leaves behind.”

Upon news of the death of his onetime star, Andrew Lloyd Webber paid tribute: “Rebecca was a magical Christine in Phantom. Musical theater has lost a great talent.” 

 “No one sings like Rebecca,” said Sierra Boggess. “Her ‘Think of Me’ [from The Phantom of the Opera] is still untouchable. But it isn’t just the voice. It’s the soul, the graciousness, the generosity, the kindness in every way. Rebecca Luker, you are beloved. There was no one like you. You inspired all of us.”

LaChanze, echoing what so many friends and colleagues are feeling, called Rebecca Luker’s passing: “A huge loss for the American theater.”