Sherie Rene Scott delivers a fabulous performance in her vibrant, autobiographically-based musical.
The piece (which had previous incarnations at the Zipper Theater and as a one-night benefit concert on Broadway) uses a diverse selection of pre-existing tunes to serve as the soundtrack to Scott's life story, which she shares with the audience in short vignettes. The tales she tells are organized around the seemingly contradictory principles of humility and embracing life to the fullest -- or as she puts it, "the world was created for me!" In addition, she weaves in a quest for a sense of spirituality that is not defined by the many churches she has attended. This includes the one run by the hate-mongering Reverend Fred Phelps in her native Topeka, Kansas, who is notorious for picketing the funerals of people (primarily gay men) who died of AIDS -- including the one of Scott's beloved cousin.
As she tells it, music was always her refuge, and a means of expressing herself. Not only does she have a gorgeous voice, Scott has an uncanny ability to interpret the songs she sings in a way that captures the emotional essence of the stories she's spinning. Perhaps most surprising is the layers of meaning she uncovers in several songs by Fred Rogers -- best known as the host of the children's program, Mister Rogers Neighborhood. Her breathy rendition of Rogers' "I Like to Be Told" is sung as a kind of sexual awakening, while her understated cover of his "It's You I Like" is a quiet moment of self-discovery and acceptance.
Some of the other musical highlights within the show are Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler's "Get Happy," which Scott reportedly sang to a room full of mental patients at the Menninger psychiatric center; Robbie Robertson's "The Weight," which begins as a torch song and then morphs into a rousing gospel-flavored number; and The Supremes' "Up the Ladder to the Roof," which ends the show on a celebratory note. Scott is backed up on vocals by Lindsay Mendez and Betsy Wolfe, who also help to smooth the transition from one scene to the next.
Those interested in a more straightforward theatrical biography of the actress may be disappointed by the lack of details about the various roles she's played to great acclaim, but there is a rather delightful section in which she interacts with a young boy (winningly portrayed by Eamon Foley) who has made a YouTube video of himself lip-synching to her singing "My Strongest Suit," from Aida.
Admittedly, there are moments when the writing of the piece feels strained. Moreover, the show's major drawback is that in trying to create a clear emotional arc from Scott's disparate narratives, it ends up with a rather pithy summation that is too forced to be meaningful. But if you focus on the journey, rather than the destination, there's much to enjoy in Everyday Rapture.