Sherie Rene Scott's autobiographically-based musical showcases the ample talents of the self-described "semi-star."
Sherie Rene Scott describes herself as a "semi-star" in her autobiographically-based musical, Everyday Rapture, now being presented on Broadway by the Roundabout Theatre Company at the American Airlines Theatre. But while Scott may not be as well known as the numerous celebrities who have trod the boards this season, she shines just as bright (and in some cases brighter) in this vibrant production that showcases her ample talents.
The piece was seen last year at Second Stage Theatre, following previous incarnations at the Zipper Theater and as a one-night benefit concert on Broadway. Changes for its most recent mounting are minimal, although director Michael Mayer has wisely chosen to restage a segment that used to involve one of the cast members as an audience plant.
Co-written by Scott with Dick Scanlan, Everyday Rapture 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.
Not only does Scott have a gorgeous voice, she 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. Kudos should also go to orchestrator and arranger Tom Kitt for his work in giving a unified feel to Everyday Rapture's eclectic song selections.
Those interested in a more straightforward theatrical biography may be disappointed by the lack of details about the various roles that the Tony-nominated actress has played to great acclaim. However, there is a rather delightful section in which she interacts with a teenage boy (winningly portrayed by Eamon Foley) who has made a YouTube video of himself lip-synching to Scott singing "My Strongest Suit," from Aida.