Make no mistake about it, Sherie Rene Scott is a star. It’s no stretch at all for her to bring her virtually one-woman show, Everyday Rapture, from Off Broadway to Broadway, and to fill the American Airlines Theatre with her voice and personality.At 43, Scott has the energy and enthusiasm of a young performer just starting out, and the stage savvy of the seasoned pro she actually is. The show is 90 minutes without an intermission, but her energy never flags.
As the curtain rises, the attractive blonde literally skips onto the stage, wearing a simple outfit of fuchsia blouse, black vest shot through with silver threads, black jeans, and shoes with substantial heels. Her lip gloss is super shiny. She almost immediately reveals that in one pocket, she carries a slip of paper which says, “The world was created for me.” In the other, a reminder that she “ is dust.” Throughout the show, these two messages reappear in concert with life events.
The story is largely, but not totally, autobiographical. In monologue and song, Scott weaves the tale of the character who shares her name from her “half Mennonite” childhood in Kansas to her self realization as a person and performer. Topeka, she informs us, is a native American word for “great place to dig for potatoes,” and as a child there, she is very much the odd duck out. Her love for TV personality Mr. Rogers is based on his sermons, which reassure her that it’s good to be an individual. This is a message she does not receive at home or at church.
Even before a huge picture of Judy Garland appears onstage, Scott evokes the late diva. Her voice has the same combination of wistfulness and huskiness. Her fondness for Garland helps her form a bond with a gay cousin, who encourages her quest for stardom. Called a “show-off” by the rest of her family, young Sherie yearns to sing, “and not just for Jesus.” In Jesus and Judy, she tells us, she finds herself “Torn Between Two Lovers.”
The proffered message of tolerance tends to get heavy handed at times. Bad thoughts and actions will make you ugly and ruin your voice, as it has for a former friend who now rages against homosexuals. There’s nothing wrong with being pro-gay, but proclaiming this allegiance on stage in a New York theater is like getting up in front of the B’nai B’rith and defending Israel. Yes, you’re on the side of the angels, but it’s not particularly bold or original.
A much more creative and entertaining section of the play has Sherie encouraging a youngster who has stated online that he worships her. He displays his video of himself lip syncing to one of her songs; she sends him a message which ends, “I hated high school, too.” Eamon Foley is pitch perfect as the teen who goes from obsessive fan to royal pain. As his gestures get bigger and wilder, he and Sherie exchange e-mails which force her to prove her identity to the doubting youth. Sherie finally has to be restrained by her two backup singers, Lindsay Mendez and Betsy Wolfe. They both do an excellent job of supporting her vocally throughout the presentation.
It’s nearly impossible to not consider this production a small miracle. After toiling fruitlessly to bring her show to Broadway, Everyday Rapture was a last minute substitution for the now defunct Lips Together, Teeth Apart. If Megan Mullally hadn’t bailed on that show, we wouldn’t have gotten to experience this show at its current venue. Even though Scott is a Tony Award winner for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and very well respected in theater circles, she just wasn’t considered a big enough star to sell tickets on the strength of her name. That means we would have missed witnessing the actress describing to her son the meaning of luck, and all the magic, both legerdemain and theatrical, of the evening. “You have to be ready for the rapture, because it’s coming any day,” quotes Scott from her Mennonite background. And watching her perform, we know it’s already here.
American Airlines Theatre
227 West 42nd Street.
Michall Jeffers is an accomplished Cultural Journalist. She writes extensively, both in print and online. Her eponymous cable TV show is syndicated throughout the tri-state area, and features celebrity interviews, reviews, and commentary. She is a voting member of Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, American Theatre Critics Association, International Association of Theatre Critics, Dance Critics Association, and National Book Critics Circle. firstname.lastname@example.org. michalljeffers.com